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Trump to demand full Iranian withdrawal from Syria during Putin meet: report

Senior administration officials have told AFP a "task force" has been set up to address potential meddling in the 2018 congressional elections and work is underway to introduce sanctions in response to Moscow's 2016 campaign
Mikhail KLIMENTYEV (SPUTNIK/AFP)

US President Donald Trump will demand, during talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, a full withdrawal of all Iranian forces from Syria, according to a report by the London-based Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper on Thursday.

“If the Putin-Trump summit is held on July 15, its core will be to negotiate Washington’s insistence on Iran’s withdrawal from Syria,” a Western diplomat told the paper, referring to a reported forthcoming meeting between the US and Russian leaders.

The unidentified diplomat also told the paper that Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria as it sees fit.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it will not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily in the country, where it has for years provided military backing to Syrian President Basar al-Assad’s regime alongside Russia.

Though it maintains a formal policy of non-intervention in the Syrian civil war, a number of strikes on targets in the country have been attributed to Israel.

Abody Ahfad Khaled via AP

Israel has admitted to carrying out strikes against convoys of weapons intended for Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon or Syrian airbases operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Syria’s southern border is a prized region for nearly all stakeholders in Syria's war due to its strategic geographical position bordering both Jordan and the Israeli Golan Heights, while also lying in close proximity to Damascus.

Russia called late last month for urgent negotiations with the US and Jordan on the state of Syria’s southern border, and Putin has discussed the matter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unconfirmed media reports say that Russia has also given Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria, and the diplomat cited by Al-Hayat said that the US assesses that Moscow is unwilling to “pay a heavy price” for Iran’s continued presence in the country.

The diplomat said that the US is open to the idea of Assad remaining in power and does not oppose the regime retaking territory lost to rebel groups -- including the Salafist Jihadist Al-Nusra Front and the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army -- which both Washington and Moscow agree should be disarmed.

(Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

In an interview with Iran's Al-Alam television channel earlier this month, Assad said that talks led by Moscow on the future of the south of the country were ongoing, but that Israel and the US were preventing a negotiated settlement.

Assad also said that relations with Iran and its presence in Syria were non-negotiable and that he would not object, if need be, to the establishment of a permanent Iranian military base within his country's borders.

On Wednesday, Putin agreed to hold a summit in a third country with Donald Trump with the details of the summit to be revealed Thursday.

American news website Politico reported that the two leaders could meet in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

US-Russian relations have suffered from years of disagreement over the Syrian conflict, Russia's annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

More recently ties have been strained by a probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and suspected collusion with the Trump campaign, as well as by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

But since coming to power last year, Trump has sought to improve relations with Putin amid tensions between Moscow and the West.

AFP contributed to this report.

Comments

(2)

This will be one of many demands from Putin.

Iranian scum in Syria will go home either of their own accord it sent home by Israel in body bags. either way works for me. I prefer irgc dead

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