UPDATE 1330 GMT: Apparently accepting Israel’s conditions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that only the Assad regime should field military forces in southern Syria near the Jordanian border and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
At a press conference in Moscow, Lavrov said:
Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street.
The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel.
The Israeli daily Haaretz, citing security and diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, said Russia has decided to work on a deal to remove Iranian and Iranian-led troops from the area, after Israeli strikes on regime and Iranian targets across Syria on May 10.
The Israeli site said the foreign forces would be pulled back 30 km (19 miles) from the border.
A Saudi-owned website is claiming that Israel and Iran have engaged in indirect talks, via Jordan, about avoiding a confrontation in southern Syria.
The Elaph site said the Iranians pledged not to participate in any pro-Assad offensive to seize opposition territory in Quneitra and Dar’a Provinces, near the Jordanian border and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In return, the Israeli military will not intervene if Hezbollah and Iranian-backed foreign militias are not involved in attacks.
The Assad regime, with its insistence that it will regain “every inch” of Syria, is looking at the south after last month’s opposition surrenders in the East Ghouta near Damascus and in a pocket in northern Homs Province. However, the regime’s military has been unable to make any significant advance on the ground without Russian airstrikes and the Iranian-supported forces on the ground.
Israel has backed its warning on several occasions in recent months with airstrikes on Iranian and regime positions across Syria, inflicting scores of casualties and destroying missiles and heavy weapons.
The unconfirmed report said last weekend’s negotiations were conducted by a Jordanian mediator carrying messages between Iran’s ambassador to Jordan — acting on instructions from senior officials — and senior Israeli security officials in adjacent hotel rooms in Amman. One participant allegedly said that “the sides…arrived at a quick agreement that even surprised the Israeli representatives”.
Iranian and Assad regime officials have not responded to the claim. The Elaph report is featured by The Jerusalem Post, but there has been no comment from any spokesperson for the Israeli government or military.