Russian FM says Iran can legitimately stay in Syria
Sergey Lavrov notes terms for new ceasefire agreement don’t include an Iranian pullout
Times of Israel
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that a recently announced agreement on the terms of a ceasefire in Syria did not include a Russian commitment to ensure Iran-linked militias would be pulled out of the country.
Lavrov said Iran maintained a “legitimate” presence in Syria, according to the Interfax news agency.
It was not clear if Lavrov’s comments related to reports that the deal would place restrictions on how close to the Israeli-Syrian border Iran-backed groups would be allowed to remain.
The statement came as officials from the US National Security Council flew into Israel for talks with security heads, primarily over the US-Russia agreement regarding Syria and Iran’s growing threat to the region.
On Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will not be bound by the deal, which would somewhat distance Iranian proxies from the border with Israel.
The agreement, announced in a joint US-Russian statement Saturday, affirms a call for “the reduction, and ultimate elimination” of foreign fighters from southern Syria.
According to reports, the deal applies to Iranian proxies fighting on behalf of Assad’s regime, which would be required to leave the border area and eventually Syria.
But according to an unnamed Israeli official, under the deal, militias associated with Iran would be allowed to maintain positions as close as five to seven kilometers (3.1-4.3 miles) to the border in some areas, Reuters reported Monday.
In addition to the Syria agreement, the US officials are likely to discuss Iran’s alleged construction of a military base less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Israel’s Golan border.
On Friday, the BBC, citing a Western security official, reported that Iran was setting up a permanent base on a site used by the Syrian army near el-Kiswah, 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus, and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Israeli border.
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