Netanyahu tells Putin, Syria 'safe zones' not to serve Iran, Hezbollah activity
ALEXANDER NEMENOV (POOL/AFP/File)
In a phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, the two leaders discussed the agreed upon “safe-zones” in Syria between Russia with Iran and Turkey.
While Netanyahu did not express opposition to the arrangement in the call, according to an unnamed senior Israeli official to Haaretz, he warned that such “safe zones” must not allow Iran or Hezbollah (primarily based in Lebanon) to establish bases near Israel’s borders.
Fighting eased in Syria last week after a deal signed by government backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey to create four "deescalation zones" began to take effect.
The United States gave an extremely cautious welcome, citing Iran's role as a guarantor even as it expressed hope that the deal could set the stage for a settlement.
It provides for a ceasefire, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees after the creation of "deescalation zones" across stretches of eight Syrian provinces in rebel-held areas not affiliated with ISIS jihadists or the Jahbat al-Nusra group.
Those zones would see a halt to hostilities, including air strikes. The plan also proposes the deployment of "third-party" monitoring forces.
Netanyahu in the past has expressed support for such buffer zones to be erected on the Syrian side of the border.
According to Haaretz in an April report, Netanyahu wants to include “safe zones” on the borders between Israel and Syria, in the Golan Heights, as well as between Syria and Jordan, in order to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from setting up bases there.
Al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday that Israel, however, would not hold back on attacking any established “safe zones” in case of “ticking time bombs,” said Haaretz, referring to potential Hezbollah arms deliveries.
Several ceasefires have been agreed upon since Syria's conflict broke out in March 2011, but they have failed to permanently stem the fighting.
The new deal was penned by Turkey, which backs the opposition, as well as Russia and Iran, both supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It was reached in Astana during another round of negotiations to shore up a faltering truce deal brokered in December.
The agreement would initially last six months but could be extended by the guarantors.
World powers are hoping that success on the ground could pave the way to a new round of political talks in Geneva later this month.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with demonstrations against Assad six years ago.
(Staff with AFP)
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The Iranian regime’s role in the carnage and escalation in Syria makes it a dubious guarantor of safety and security, especially since it was Iran that begged Russia into intervening in the war in a last-ditch effort to save the Assad regime from being toppled by opposition forces.