Israel, Russia and the United States held several rounds of secret talks to discuss the ceasefire in southern Syria and creation of de-escalation zones on the country’s borders with Israel and Jordan, the Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday, citing Israeli and European politicians.
According to the news outlet, the meetings were held in the Jordanian capital of Amman and one of the European capitals before the Russia-US agreement on Syrian ceasefire was announced on July 7. The Israeli side reportedly objected to the deal due to the fact the Moscow and Washington did not focus their attention on the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria.
The unnamed sources told the newspaper that the talks engaged leading diplomats, defense and security officials from the three countries. The Israeli side reportedly included representatives from the country’s Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and intelligence community. The US team was comprised of US Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS (Daesh, a terrorist group banned in Russia) Brett McGurk. The Russian delegation was represented by Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev, the newspaper said.
Amman reportedly hosted two meetings on one day: the first was between Israel, Russia and the United States, and the second was between Israel, Jordan and the United States.
Several days later another meeting was held in an undisclosed European city. The main dispute was over the fact that the ceasefire was considered by Russia and the United States to be a tool for stabilizing the situation and enhancing the fight against Daesh.Israel, on the other hand, stressed the need to discuss Iranian presence on Syrian territory, specifically the withdrawal of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Shiite militias, according to the newspaper.
The memorandum on the establishment of de-escalation zone in the Daraa, Quneitra and As-Suwayda provinces in southwestern Syria, agreed upon by Russia, Jordan and the United States, took effect on July 9. Since then, Russian military police have set up new checkpoints and observation posts throughout the safe zone to ensure that hostilities do not resume.
Syria has been in the state of civil war for six years, with government forces fighting against both Syrian opposition groups who strive to overthrow President Bashar Assad, and numerous extremist and terrorist groups such as Daesh.