Israel, Russia, US 'held secret talks' over Syria ceasefire

Israel, Russia, US 'held secret talks' over Syria ceasefire
Israel voiced fears over Iranian influence in Syria at secret meetings with senior allies in talks held just days before July's ceasefire announcement.
2 min read
10 August, 2017
Israel voiced concern about sustained Iranian influence in Syria [AFP]
Israel, the United States and Russia held secret discussions last month over the ceasefire in southern Syria, according to Israeli officials and Russian diplomats.

The meetings took place in Amman and one European capital, Haaretz reported.

Israel reportedly opposed the deal at the meetings, which took place just days before Russia and the US announced the ceasefire. Tel Aviv is said to have raised its objections over what it saw as a lack of concern about removing Iran-backed militias from the country.

According to the anonymous officials who spoke to Haaretz, the US team was headed by President Donald Trump's special envoys for Syria, Michael Ratney and Brett McGurk. The Russian team was led by the duo's Russian counterpart Alexander Lavrentiev.

Israel, meanwhile, sent a team with representatives from the foreign and defence ministries, Mossad and the Israeli army.

At the meetings, Israel disagreed with the American and Russian stance of the safe zones providing an environment in which the Islamic State group can be defeated in Syria. The Israeli team argued that the ceasefire should focus on Iranian influence after Syria's war ends.

The team from Tel Aviv reportedly urged their Russian counterparts to demand that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizballah and other Shia militias leave the country.

Israel's position on Iranian influence in Syria seems to have had traction, with both Russia and the US coming out in recent weeks to put these concerns to rest.

Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that one of the conditions of cooperation with Russia in Syria was that Iranian forces be removed from the country.

A week earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow would ensure that Israel's security concerns are considered.