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Russia’s Lavrov meets with Israel’s Netanyahu for talks on Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center right) in a meeting with a Russian delegation led by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, July 23, 2018.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the occupied territories to discuss the situation in Syria, including Iran’s counter-terrorism mission there.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that during Monday's talks, “the parties tackled various aspects of the Middle Eastern agenda, attaching primary significance to the situation in Syria and its vicinity.”

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the meeting, which was also attended by senior Russian and Israeli military officials, dealt with “Iran and the situation in Syria.”

Over the past years, Tehran and Moscow have been assisting the Syrian army in its battles against various terrorist groups – many of which have the backing of Israel and its allies.

Russia has repeatedly underlined the need for the involvement of influential external players, including Iran, in efforts to resolve the deadly conflict gripping Syria.

Tehran also says it would maintain its advisory role in Syria and continue its support for resistance groups as long as Damascus wants it to do so.

Syria, for its part, has been clear on Iran’s counter-terrorism mission in the Arab state, with Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad saying the pullout of the Iranian military advisors from the country is not up for discussion.

Lavrov’s trip to the Israeli-occupied territories follows a visit two weeks ago by Netanyahu to Moscow, where he asked for the removal of Iranian advisors from Syria. That visit took place amid Israel’s concerns over Syria’s recent advances against the terrorists in the south near the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights.

Following the meeting on Monday, Reuters cited a senior Israeli official as saying on condition of anonymity that Israel had rejected a Russian proposal, which would see Iranian military advisors in Syria stationed 100 kilometers away from the occupied territories.

The official said Tel Aviv is sticking to its call for an end to Iran’s counter-terrorism mission in Syria, the removal of all long-range missiles from Syria and the closure of any factories producing precision-guided missiles there.

Furthermore, the official said, the Tel Aviv regime asked Moscow to guarantee that all air-defense systems that protect the aforementioned arms be taken out of the Arab country.

“This was a very important meeting at a significant time, during which we delved into many details, produced maps and shared intelligence, and explained in great detail our policy,” the unnamed official said.

Iran has no troops on the ground in Syria, but has deployed military advisors to the crisis-hit country at the request of the Damascus government.

In turn, Russia has been carrying out an aerial bombardment campaign as a cover for ground operations by the Syrian army against the terror groups seeking to oust the Damascus government. Moscow, too, has military advisors in Syria.

The Russian military runs a number of bases in Syria and deployed units of its state-of-the-art S-400 anti-aircraft missile defensive systems to the Arab country.

Israel has frequently attacked military targets inside Syria in an attempt to prop up the terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces.

Syria usually intercepts the projectiles fired by the Israeli military. It has vowed to strengthen its air power and defenses in the face of Tel Aviv’s aerial acts of aggression.

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