Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu Has reportedly told Israeli officials that Moscow has agreed to a buffer zone along the Syrian- Israeli border, where Hezbollah and Iranian forces will not be allowed to enter, Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Wednesday.
According to the London based publication, an Israeli diplomatic source revealed that Moscow had not accepted an Israeli demand of a wider, 40-kilometer zone, but had agreed to a 10-15-kilometer belt along the border.
Russia and Iran are close allies in the Syrian conflict and their cooperation turned the war around in favor of Bashar al Assad’s government.
Israel has repeatedly warned Russia that it will not accept a strong Iranian presence in Syria, which could enable the Lebanese Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian groups to obtain sophisticated weapons and get entrenched on the Israeli border.
Based on what Asharq Al-Awsat attributes to the Israeli diplomat, Shoygu told Israel that the 40-kilometer demand was “exaggerated” and “superfluous”, and that Iranian backed forces have not approached the Israeli border since Russian forces entered Syria.
But Israel seems adamant to drive the message home to Russia that it will not tolerate an Iranian domination of Syria.
Hours before the Russian defense minister arrived in Israel, a Syrian anti aircraft battery was hit by Israeli jets.
According to the Jerusalem Post, this incident created some tension during Shoygu’s visit and the Russian defense minister told Israeli officials that the attack was a “dangerous hostile operation that almost caused a severe crisis”.
It is also to be noted that concurrent with Shoygu’s visit to Israel, Iran’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Syria, where he warned that Israel’s “aggression” on Syria “is not acceptable”.