Jerusalem (AFP) – Russia has offered to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but Israel wants Tehran to completely withdraw, an Israeli official said Tuesday.
Moscow made the offer — which would see Iranian forces stay 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Syria’s border with the Golan — during talks Monday in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the official said.
But Israel said the proposal did not go far enough.
“We won’t accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, not near the border, not beyond the 100-kilometre stretch, which by the way the Russians talk about and agree to,” the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We said there are also long-range weapons beyond that distance, and all the forces must leave Syria,” the official said.
The Monday meeting came after Moscow-backed Syrian government forces regained control of most of the two provinces in the country’s south near the Golan Heights, through a combination of deadly bombardment and Russian-brokered surrender deals.
The advance has pushed hundreds of thousands to flee southward, with Israel enabling more than 400 rescue workers and family members to cross through its territory into Jordan on Sunday for resettlement in Western countries.
Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy and Netanyahu has pledged to prevent it from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. A series of air strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria have been attributed to Israel.
Both Tehran and Moscow are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict.
Israel is eager to obtain guarantees that Iranian forces and allied groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, are kept away from the Golan and even beyond.