US, Russia and Israel broadly concurred that Iranian forces would leave Syria, during a historic trilateral meeting Tuesday, but no agreement was reached as to how or when that would happen.
“We are determined to remove Iran from Syria. The two superpowers, together with Israel, agree that we must aspire to the goal in which all foreign forces that have entered Syria since 2011 leave Syria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“The issue will also be discussed between Presidents [Donald] Trump and [Vladimir] Putin. I hope that the continuation will be in Israel soon because we have a goal that we want to achieve in order to add to the security and stability of the region and to the security of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. Trump and Putin are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan this weekend.
Netanyahu spoke with reporters after a Jerusalem trilateral meeting between him and Russian, US and Israeli national security advisors Nikolai Patrushev, John Bolton and Meir Ben Shabbat.
Bolton similarly told reporters after the meeting that there was such an understanding, with Russian President Vladimir Putin concurring on this point, already last year.
“It is not a question about a disagreement about the outcome, but a mutual effort to find a way to make it happen,” Bolton said. In the US view, that should happen concurrently with an Iranian commitment to halt its pursuit of producing nuclear weapons.
Patrushev struck a much less conciliatory note in a press conference he gave after the meeting. He spoke strongly in support Iran and against Israeli and US efforts to brand Iran as a destabilizing force in the region.
“Iran has been and will be an ally and partner of ours, with which we have gradually developing ties for quite some time, both bilaterally and multilaterally,” Patrushev said.
“Any attempts to make Tehran look like the main threat to global security, to put it in the same basket as ISIS or any other terror group, are unacceptable. Iran has been contributing a lot to the fight against terrorism in Syria, helping to stabilize the situation.
“We call upon our partners to exercise restraint and to take efforts to alleviate the concerns and tensions. Efforts should be made to decrease tensions between Israel and Iran,” Patrushev said.
Patrushev dismissed the charge that Iran had recently torpedoed US tankers and called for an investigation Ito the matter.
“We should not assign blame, we should just get to the bottom of this issue,” he said.
Patrushev added that he believed that the US drone was in Iranian airspace when Tehran shot it down.
Patrushev said that Israeli airstrikes against Iranian military largest in Syria were “unwelcome.” He added, “we said we need a more efficient cooperation between the ministries of defense of Russia and Israel. Many of the airstrikes could have been prevented. That is the way to alleviate the concerns of Israel and we need to alleviate the concerns of Israel by non-military means.”
Steps have to be taken to “decrease tension between Israel and Tehran by taking steps on both sides toward that goal. Syria should not become a geopolitical arena for confrontation,” Patrushev said.
Prior to the trilateral, Netanyahu said that there was“a wider basis for cooperation” between the three countries “than many believe.”
But he underscored that as long as Iran remained in Syria, Israel reserved the right to act against it when it posed a threat.
“Israel has acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said, adding that, “Israel will continue to prevent Iran from using neighboring territory as platforms to attack us and Israel will respond forcibly to any such attacks.”
Netanyahu thanked Russia for working out a deconfliction mechanism with Israel, which allows it to operate in Syria without the risk of harming Russian forces in Syria.
“All three of us [Israel, Russia and the US] would like to see a peaceful, stable and secure Syria,” Netanyahu said.
“We also have a common objective to achieve that goal... that no foreign forces that arrived in Syria after 2011 remain in Syria,” Netanyahu said.
Such an outcome, he said, “will be good for Russia, good for the US, good for Israel and good for Syria.”
Bolton is in Israel in a period of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. He had harsh words for Iran, even as he Tehran to negotiate a peaceful outcome to the conflict between the two countries.
Tehran should not view the US’s decision to hold back from launching a retaliatory military strike against Iran as a sign of weakness, Bolton said
Bolton repeated twice to reporters that Iran "should not mistake restraint as a sign of weakness."
Iran must halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons and “all options are on the table” until it does, Bolton said.
“They should give up their pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons. They should make that strategic step, they have not done it yet,” Bolton said.
Prior to the meeting, Bolton said, that US President Donald Trump “has held the door open for real negotiations, to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it's pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, it’s support of international terrorism and its other maligning behavior worldwide.”
“All Iran needs to do is walk through that open door,” he explained.
Bolton noted that other top US officials - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US envoy on Iran Brian Hook - were also in the region to discuss Iran with Arab leaders.
“As we speak, US diplomats are surging across the Middle East seeking a path to peace,” Bolton said. “In response Iran’s silence is deafening,” he added.
"Iran’s provocations, which also include threats to and acts upon American personnel and assets in the Middle East, are the external manifestations of the essential threat Iran poses, namely its continued pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.
“There is simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussion to demonstrate that decision,” he added.
“In just a few days - perhaps by the the end of the week - Iran has threatened to exceed the key limits possessed by the inadequate 2015 nuclear deal, exposing once again the fatal deficiencies of that failed agreement,” Bolton said.
“All around the Middle East, we see Iran as the source of belligerence and aggression,” he said, giving as examples its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, its assistance to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the arming of militia groups in Iraq, the weaponizing of the Houthis in Yemen, its support of terrorist activities against US forces in Afghanistan and its threat to oil supplies.
Bolton said that the trilateral meeting was taking place at a “particularly critical moment.” The US envoy also spoke glowingly of Netanyahu’s leadership and the role he plays in maintaining Israeli security.
The trilateral meeting, Bolton said to Netanyahu, “is a tribute to your leadership and a recognition of the central role that Israel does and must play in securing international peace and security.”
He added that, “through your strong relationships with both [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and President Trump, there is a substantially greater prospect for coordination of our perspective policies in order to achieve a secure and lasting peace in the region.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday according to the Fars news agency, that Iran has no reason left to carry out commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal without reciprocation from the remaining European
Iran will announce a new reduction of its commitments under the nuclear deal on July 7, the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said on Tuesday.
U.S. sanctions against Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are an attack against the nation, Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei tweeted on Tuesday.
"Sanctioning #the_supreme_leader ,who for the first time issued Fatwa against all forms of #WMD, is a direct attack to a nation. This action will increase the unity of Iranian people," he wrote in English.
US President Donald Trump tweeted, “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”
Yvette J. Deane and Reuters contributed to this report.
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