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Lavrov says Russia, US will ensure Israeli interests considered in Syria talks

Le ministre russe des Affaires étrangères Sergueï Lavrov, le 13 juillet 2017 à Berlin
John MACDOUGALL (AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that the United States and Russia would ensure that Israel's interests are taken into account when discussing the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria, one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu came out opposed to their current ceasefire deal.

In a surprising declaration from Paris on Sunday, Netnayahu expressed his staunch opposition to the US-Russia brokered agreement on the grounds that it perpetuates Iran's plans to establish a disruptive long-term presence on Israel’s northern border.

The hard-won ceasefire deal, which came into effect earlier this month, was meant to prevent further advances in southern Syria by both government and rebel forces. But it not clear whether the Iran-backed Hezbollah Islamist group would comply, as they were not involved in the agreement.

A report by the Haaretz daily on Sunday, citing a senior Israeli official who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, said that Israel is aware of Iranian plans to not only send its military advisers into Syria, but also to build up its forces there including through the establishment of a permanent airbase and naval base.

"The agreement as it is now is very bad" one senior Israeli official told Haaretz. "It doesn't take almost any of Israel's security interests and it creates a disturbing reality in southern Syria. The agreement doesn’t include a single explicit word about Iran, Hezbollah or the Shi’ite militias in Syria."

Netanyahu initially welcomed the deal, but warned that it "should not allow the military consolidation of Iran and its satellites in Syria in general, and in southern Syria in particular."

Hezbollah, considered by Israel to be one of the biggest threats to the Jewish State, has been advancing into southern Syria as part of their fighting alongside Syrian government forces in support of President Bashar Al-Assad, which is fighting to regain the territory from rebel groups.

Israel has expressed concern that Iran is pursuing a broader agenda, hoping to stake out a permanent presence in the region through Hezbollah, including creating a land route through Syria that would connect Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.

A US official told The Associated Press that Israel had been "a part" of the agreement, but did not elaborate, while Haaretz reported that senior Israeli officials were only briefed on the talks and not a direct party to them.

Israel was also said to be adamantly opposed to Russia monitoring the ceasefire and argued that the United States should be in charge of enforcing the agreement.

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Israel is going to have to do some bombing in syria, the way this thing is being setup.

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