Iranian forces in Syria withdraw more than 80 km from Israeli border, Russian official says

Israeli tanks seen near the Israeli-Syrian border, May 10, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Israeli tanks seen near the Israeli-Syrian border, May 10, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

(JTA) – Iranian forces and their weapons have withdrawn to no closer than 85 km from Israel’s border with Syria on the Golan Heights, a Russian official said.

Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told Sputnik news agency that Russia is working for Syrian reconciliation in an open manner and in coordination with the Syrian government, respecting the interests of neighbouring countries, including Israel.

“Of course, we take into account the interests of neighbouring states, interests of Israel, our president spoke about that. As we took into account the Israeli concerns, we managed to attain the pullout of Iranian units 85 km from the Israeli [-Syrian] border,” Lavrentyev said.

Last week during a meeting in Jerusalem with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a Russian offer to keep Iranian troops a large distance from the border with Israel and instead insisted that Iran leave the country completely, a senior Israeli official told reporters.

Israel is concerned that Iran will stockpile “hundreds and thousands of missiles” in Syria. “Iran wants to turn Syria into a second Lebanon. And we’re determined to prevent that,” the official said in a briefing to reporters last week.

Lavrentyev told Sputnik that Russia believes that Israeli concerns over the presence of pro-Iranian forces near its border with Syria are decreasing. “Yes, of course, we are certain of this,” Lavrentyev said.

Earlier this week, the Syrian government regained control of the Golan Heights area near the border with Israel from Islamic State-backed fighters for the first time in seven years.

Russia entered Syria’s long-standing civil war in 2015, in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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