An Israeli newspaper has revealed that Israel, Russia and the US held a series of secret meetings last month to discuss the truce agreement in southern Syria, New Khalij has reported. According to Haaretz, Israeli officials and Western diplomats, all of whom requested anonymity, said that the meetings were held in Amman and a European capital before the announcement of the establishment of de-escalation zones in southern Syria. Senior diplomats and security officials from the three countries participated in those meetings.
Furthermore, said Haaretz, the meetings were held in the presence of the US special envoy to Syria, Michael Ratney, and the White House envoy for the Global Coalition, Brett McGurk, as well as officials from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence, the Israel Defence Forces and Mossad spy agency. Moscow’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lafrentiev, was also there. In Amman, attendees included Jordanian officials. The third meeting, in Europe, was at a higher level than the meetings in Jordan’s capital.
The Israeli delegation apparently opposed the de-escalation memorandum, noting that, according to Tel Aviv, this agreement does not pay enough attention to curbing Iranian influence across Syria. Israel’s representatives protested against the failure of the Russian-American agreement with Hezbollah and the Iranian factions, and called for the withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Shia militia groups from Syria.
Read: Israel’s new occupation zone in Syria
Last month, in Hamburg, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov announced his country’s agreement with the US on a ceasefire in southern Syria.
Despite the fact that Israel coordinates its security activities in Syria with Russia — such coordination is at the level of direct telephone calls at any time between Israeli military bases in the occupied Golan and Russian bases in Syria — Israel does not trust the Russian leadership. It doubts that the Russians could reach agreements with Iran concerning all matters related to the control of the land, as part of their common interest in keeping Bashar Al-Assad in power.
It is known that Israel considers Daraa, the Province of Suwayda (Jabal Al-Arab) and other areas adjacent to the occupied Golan Heights as being of political interest and necessary for its own security. The Israelis have several allies there, including the Druze militia of Golan Knights and many others, with different names, which claim to be subordinates of the Free Syrian Army. The government in Tel Aviv believes that these allies can form the basis for the establishment of a “South Syrian Army”, similar to the “South Lebanon Army” that it established and financed in the past.