Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday in no uncertain terms that his government supports Iran’s presence on Israel’s border and has no intention to ask the Islamic Republic to withdraw its forces: “We state the fact of our own and Iran’s legitimate presence at the invitation of the legitimate government. We also state the fact of the illegitimate presence of the coalition that has been forged by the United States and which carries out military operations, including independent ones, primarily providing support for the opposition armed groups on Syrian soil and in its airspace,” the minister stressed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, for his part, on Monday stated that Iran knows Israel will “not accept” its permanent presence in Syria, adding “I have clarified to our friends in Washington and our friends in Moscow that we will operate in Syria, including southern Syria, in accordance with our understanding and in accordance with our security needs.”
According to TASS, Lavrov added that the withdrawal of pro-Iranian forces from Syria was not discussed at the talks with the US. “Neither Iran nor pro-Iranian units were discussed,” the minister said. “If we talk about pro-Iranian forces, some may be tempted to call the entire Syrian army pro-Iranian. Should it surrender in that case? I believe this is what they call wishful thinking.”
“In particular, we discussed with the Americans a mechanism for the de-escalation zone’s operation in Syria’s southwest,” Russia’s top diplomat pointed out.
“This is an open agreement and its text is available,” Lavrov said, adding that Jordanian representatives also took part in hammering out the deal.
“Informal consultations were held with Israel taking into consideration that this zone is in direct proximity to the Golan Heights,” he noted, but Russia and the US “did not discuss specifically and in detail” the developments in Syria.
“Seeking the non-Syrian units’ withdrawal from the line of engagement in this difficult region of Syria is what we agreed on,” Lavrov explained. However, in his view, the biggest threat in Syria today is posed by US-backed opposition forces, some of which are also aligned with Israel. “If one looks at who poses the biggest threat, it is the United States’ charges, specifically, various foreign terrorists, militants who ‘cling’ to those armed opposition groups backed by the US,” the foreign minister stressed.