Trump and Putin agree to secure Israel's 'border' with Syria

Trump and Putin agree to secure Israel's 'border' with Syria
Russia and the US appear to have agreed a deal to secure the Golan border, illegally occupied by Israel, during a meeting between Putin and Trump in Helsinki.
3 min read
17 July, 2018
Trump and Putin's relationship has drawn fire from Americans [AFP]

Russia and the US appear to have agreed a deal to secure the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights frontier with Syria for Israel, following a meeting between leaders of the two countries on Monday in the Finnish capital.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a strong backer of Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime, and US President Donald Trump, met to address a key number of global issues at the controversial Helsinki summit.

Among the topics discussed was the war in Syria, where regime forces have intensified their assault on rebel territories close to the illegally-occupied Golan territories.

Israel occupied a large part of this key strategic Syrian land following its 1967 war with Syria and other Arab states.

A regime offensive around Quneitra in the Golan has sparked unease in Israel, where concerns about the possible involvement of Iranian forces in the military campaign run strong.

Russia is a strategic ally of Israel but has also been a key military backer of the Assad regime - along with Iran - during its war against rebels.

Moscow has tried to balance Tel Aviv's concerns about the Iran establishing a foothold in Syria with its own strategic interests in the war-torn country.

Putin has repeatedly stated that Israel's security is a key priority and reports suggest Moscow is attempting to use its influence to keep Iranian forces away from areas close to the Golan.

This is something Putin appeared to suggest at the Helsinki meeting, when he discussed the regime offensive around Quneitra.

"This will allow us to return calm to the Golan, restore the cease-fire between Syria and Israel and fully guarantee the security of the State of Israel," Putin said in a press conference. 

"Mr. President [Trump] devoted a lot of attention to this. Russia wants this to happen."

The US has pushed for Iran to withdraw from Syria after the war comes to an end, while Trump said at the meeting that Israel's security is paramount.

"We both spoke with Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] and they would like to do certain things with Syria having to do with the safety of Israel... Russia and the United States will work jointly (in this regard)," he said at the press conference.

"Creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and myself."

Such cooperation between the US and Russian militaries in Syria is controversial, and would all but end Washington's shallow support for the anti-Assad opposition.

Under Trump, the US has scaled back its material support for Syrian rebel forces and opposition councils in liberated territories.

Trump has also repeatedly voiced his support for Russian efforts to "ending the war" in Syria.

Assad ground forces - with Russian air support - are in the process of re-capturing the last opposition territories outside Idlib province.

Hundreds have been killed in the bloody offensives with tens of thousands of civilians made homeless.

Trump's has also called for US forces to withdraw from northern Syria, which would effectively give Assad a greenlight to reclaim these territories from Kurdish forces.

His meeting with Putin following heightened tensions between Russia and the US' European allies.

This has directed more criticism at Trump about his controversial relationship with Putin, as the president’s criticism of his intelligence services.

Veteran Republican politician John McCain issued a strongly-worded statement condemning Trump's meeting and the warm words the president shared with Putin.

"[The] president... seems determined to realise his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin's regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbours, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world," McCain said in a statement.