Israel denies reaching deal with Russia on Iran presence in Syria

Iran must leave Syria completely, Israel maintains, denying any agreement with Russia to the contrary. 

By: World Israel News Staff

Russia has stated that it reached an agreement with Israel on Iran’s military presence in Syria, while an Israeli diplomatic official denied the reports on Saturday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Thursday on the situation in Syria.

The two leaders “discussed regional developments and the Iranian presence in Syria,” Netanyahu’s office stated. The Kremlin said the conversation focused on “some aspects of the Syrian settlement.”

The two met earlier this month in Moscow.

The phone call came as Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was visiting Moscow for talks on the Iranian presence along Israel’s border with Syria.

Russia says Israel agreed on Iran’s withdrawal from the south of Syria, while Israel stresses that the Iranians must leave Syria completely and not only from the Golan Heights.

The Israeli official also underscored that Israel will continue to maintain its operational freedom to act against Iranian entrenchment in all of Syria, Israeli media reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported Thursday that Iranian troops and Hezbollah terrorists are preparing to withdraw from southern Syria.

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However, a Syria-based official with the Iran-led forces denied the report, saying it is “untrue.”

Russia wants to cut a deal, report says

Russian news outlets recently reported that Moscow wants to cut a deal that would see Russian military police deployed to areas near Israel. The agreement would envisage the pullout of all Iranian forces from the area and require Syrian rebels to surrender heavy weapons.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that the Syrian army should be the only force present in the southern part of the country.

“All the forces that are not Syrian should withdraw, and there must be a situation in which only the forces of the Syrian army will be stationed on the Syrian side of the border with Israel,” he said.

Israel has long been concerned about the Iranian military buildup in Syria and views it as a severe threat to its security.

Last month, responding to rocket fire in the north, Israel’s Air Force (IAF) launched its largest attack in Syria in decades when it destroyed some 50 Iranian targets.

AP contributed to this report.