Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Russia and the United States would do all they could to address Israeli concerns about the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria, the RIA news agency reported.
He was responding to comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who told reporters in Paris late on Sunday that the arrangement perpetuated Iran’s presence in Syria and that Israel was therefore “utterly opposed” to it.
The public objection was rare for Netanyahu, who has sought to avoid confrontation with Moscow and Washington over Syria.
Lavrov, on a visit to Belarus, was also cited as saying that “anti-Russian feeling” in the United States meant it was not certain that Moscow and Washington could agree on key global issues.
Netanyahu’s objection expressed Sunday came during a two-hour meeting the two leaders held in the Élysée Palace, after a ceremony earlier in the day marking 75 years since the roundup and deportation of more than 13,000 French Jews during the Holocaust.
Diplomatic sources have said that Iran wants to establish air, land and sea bases in Lebanon, something Jerusalem cannot tolerate.
With Jerusalem worried over Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent presence in Syria, Netanyahu said he was opposed to the agreement reached earlier this month between Russia and the US regarding a cease-fire in Syria because, while it removes Iranian forces 20 kilometers from Israel’s border, it perpetuates Iran’s military presence in the country.
Jerusalem maintains that Iran is not only interested in sending military advisers to Syria, but also is keen on establishing ground and air bases there, something that could radically change the situation in the region. He said that Israel would oppose any agreement in Syria that enables Iranian backed Hezbollah presence there.
Netanyahu told Israeli journalists that in addition to Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon, Hamas is also attempting to gain a foothold there. The premier said he asked France – which has a distinct, historic relationship with Lebanon as its colonizer – to use its influence in Lebanon to work against efforts to turn the country into a base for more terrorist organizations, something that would have grave consequences.
Herb Keinon and Rina Bassist contributed to this report.