Lavrov: Iranian presence in Syria 'legitimate'
Rebuffing grievances voiced by Netanyahu about Syrian ceasefire agreement that enables pro-Iranian forces to remain as little as 5-7km from border, Russia's foreign min. says Moscow never committed to their full withdrawal, insists Iranian presence in war-torn country 'legitimate.’
Lavrov’s comments, quoted in the Russian news agencies RIA and in Interfax, come in response to remarks made Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who publicly stated that Israel would not be bound by the agreement and that it would act as it saw fit against any residual presence near its northern border or threats in southern Syria left behind after the agreement.
“I clarified for our friends, first and foremost in Washington and also our friends in Moscow, that Israel will act in Syria, including in southern Syria, in accordance with its understanding and our security needs,” the prime minister said during a Likud party meeting.
In October, Netanyahu told Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench its military forces in Syria.
“Iran has to understand that Israel will not allow this,” Netanyahu said during the meeting in Jerusalem, which was also attended by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
In November, it emerged that Netanyahu’s words had seemingly gone unheeded after the British news broadcasting corporation BBC published satellite footage allegedly showing continued construction work on permanent structures in Lebanon, built for the Iran army between January and October.
The permanent Iranian site, which includes over 20 buildings presumably to be used for soldiers' housing and storing military vehicles, is located 50km from the Golan Heights.
The agreement, which included a clause removing Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias in Syria from its border with Israel on the Golan Heights, raised eyebrows among Israeli security officials after learning that they would be permitted to remain present a mere 5-7km from the border.
Depending on current rebel positions on the Syrian Golan Heights, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due, the forces would have to deploy up to 30km from the border.
Lavrov also reserved criticism for the US, claiming that not only was its presence in Syria illegal, but it was also ineffective.
Moreover, he repeated the allegation first made by Shoygu that “The US air force tried to prevent a Russian air strike against ISIS in the Abu Kamal region in Syria near the Iraqi border.”