ON THE march. A poster of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad who is allied with Russia and Iran. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Moscow seeks to prevent a military escalation between Iran and Israel, the Kremlin’s ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan said in an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Avgidor Liberman says Israel will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria an a tour of the Golan Heights with IDF officers, July 10, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
“Sometimes conflicts do arise, and we are naturally concerned about the possibility of military confrontation between the Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria. We do everything possible to prevent it. To prevent the escalation of the conflict,” he said.
Iran is a “friendly country” and “one of our key partners” which cooperates with Russia in “various spheres” including ending the seven-year-old civil war in Syria, Dzhagaryan said. Iran’s presence in the war-torn country is legitimate because it was invited by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, he added.
“Iran is not a country that you can put pressure on. This is a big state, pursuing an independent foreign policy. Work with Iranians can only be a method of persuasion,” Dzhagaryan noted.
Tensions between the two foes has risen in recent months and Jerusalem has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria.
In recent weeks top Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have repeatedly met with their Russian counterparts, both in Moscow and Jerusalem, Russia and in Israel, to stress the issue.
Last week Liberman reiterated Israel’s concerns, saying “the Iranian presence in Syria is unreasonable. We are not prepared to accept an Iranian presence in Syria anywhere, and as you have heard more than once, we will act against any Iranian consolidation in Syria.”
In recent weeks Syrian government forces backed by Russian airpower have seized territory on the Syrian Golan Heights from rebel groups. Iranian forces and affiliated Shiite militias are also said to be playing a minor role in the offensive, which is approaching the Israeli border.
In response, the IDF has reinforced the Golani Division. Israel has vowed to protect the frontier “until the last millimeter.”
In a joint press conference in Helsinki with US President Donald Trump last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin concurred that Israel’s border with Syria must be preserved in accordance with the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement signed following the Yom Kippur War.
Doing so, Putin said, will bring “peace to the Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also provide security for the State of Israel.”
Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war in September 2015. As an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow finds itself part of the alliance between Damascus and Tehran, the patron of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah.
Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role the Islamic Republic plays in the war-torn country.
Israel believes that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Corps and Quds forces are continuing to entrench themselves despite repeated IAF strikes against Iranian bases in Syria. Last week Israel again pummeled air defenses in Aleppo province.
Israeli intelligence estimates thousands of Iranian advisers and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officers are based in Syria, as well as 9,000 Shiite mercenaries from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and 7,000 Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.
Israel and Russia implemented a deconfliction mechanism system over Syria to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries and according to Liberman, the deconfliction mechanism with Russia is “a connection that proves itself.”
“It is clear that each side has its own interests. Each side sees the picture differently. In the years of civil war in Syria, we were able to avoid direct friction, and that is an achievement in itself,” he said in February. “This is an effective relationship.”
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