Israel could establish diplomatic ties with Assad's Syria

Israel could establish diplomatic ties with Assad's Syria
Israel has not ruled out establishing diplomatic ties with Bashar al-Assad's Syria, as the regime looks set to win the country's seven-year war.
2 min read
10 July, 2018
Lieberman appeared to back ties with Syria [Getty]
Israel could form ties with Bashar al-Assad's Syria, the country's far-right defence minister said on Tuesday, as the Syrian regime looks set to win a seven-year war against armed opposition groups.

Avigdor Lieberman toured the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights on Wednesday, and said that the two countries could eventually end decades of dispute and establish diplomatic relations.

"I reckon we are a long way from that, but we are not ruling out anything," he said, when asked if "some kind of relationship" could grow between the two sides.

The comments signal Israeli acceptance of Assad winning the country's bloody civil war, which has cost the lives of more than 500,000 people - the vast majority civilians killed by regime air raids and shelling.

Half the population remains homeless due to fighting and bombing. Scores of Syrians are camped out by a fence separating the Golan Heights from the Israel-occupied side, after after fleeing a recent regime offensive in Daraa.

Much of the Golan was illegally occupied and annexed by Israel following the 1967 war with Syria and other Arab states.

Part of the territory is still held by Syria but a 1974 UN demilitarisation accord prohibited troops entering the Golan.

Syrian regime troops have been making their way to rebel-held Quneitra in the Golan Heights, but Israel has warned Assad against deploying his forces in the region.

"Any Syrian soldier who will be in the buffer zone risks his life," Lieberman told reporters, according to Reuters

More concerning for Israel is the presence of Iranian troops and Tehran-backed militias in Syria. Their weapons convoys and hardware have been regularly targeted by Israeli strike jets throughout the war.

"This effort to set up a terrorist infrastructure under (Syrian) regime auspices is unacceptable, as far as we are concerned, and we will take action with great might against any terrorist infrastructure that we see and identify here in this area," Lieberman added.

Syria's regime has held direct negotiations with Israel, offering a peace deal in exchange for the occupied Golan territories.

Israel reportedly held negotiations with Russia on allowing the Syrian regime to occupy southern rebel-held areas of Syria if Iranian troops and fighters were excluded from the offensive.