Russia to help on Syria-Israel border patrols

Blanche Robertson
August 16, 2018

A delegation of United Nations commanders has visited Damascus for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub on the redeployment of the world body's peacekeepers to the volatile demilitarized zone along the Israeli-occupied side of Syria's Golan Heights.

"The Russian flag is the guarantor of peace and security on that land", said Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko, speaking to global reporters on a trip to the area organized by the Russian Defence Ministry.

As Russia has helped its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, regain control over territory once held by rebels in the past year, it has stationed military police in all the recaptured areas including the border with Israel, where Assad's forces last month ousted most remaining rebel fighters.

Russian Federation has backed an offensive led by Assad's forces which removed rebels from their strongholds in the south of the country.

After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.

The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.

Israel took control of 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it.

In 1974, following the Yom Kippur War, a United Nations peacekeeping mission was created to monitor the ceasefire line separating Israelis from Syrians.

In a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday, the two sides discussed coordination between the Syrian government and the world body's command on the resumption of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)'s mission along the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel based on the 1974 armistice, Syria's official SANA news agency reported.

The UN Security Council in June 2017 passed a resolution calling on all groups to vacate UNDOF positions and to return peacekeepers' vehicles, weapons and other equipment that had been looted. "We deploy posts along the line", Kuralenko said.

A Syrian army soldier stands at a check-point as a Russian military police vehicle right passes by near the village of Almajdiyeh
A Syrian army soldier stands at a check-point as a Russian military police vehicle right passes by near the village of Almajdiyeh Credit AP

"We are offering all possible assistance to the United Nations mission to allow it to resume its operations in the demilitarized zone in full", Kuralenko said, adding that the Russian military police will leave once the United Nations mission fully takes charge.

Asked about any Iranian presence in the Golan, Konachenkov's face became tense.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran, or its proxy Hezbollah militia, to establish a permanent presence in postwar Syria.

"The Russian military police work in close interaction with the UN", Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko told reporters during a visit to Golan.

Israel has built dozens of illegal settlements in the occupied Golan Heights since its occupation, and has used the territory to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government in support of the terrorists wreaking havoc on the Arab country.

By deploying its forces along the Syrian-Israeli frontier, Moscow has sought to assuage Israeli concerns about the Iranian presence in Syria.

However, Israel's attempt to convince Russian Federation to force Iran to leave Syria has not borne fruit. Moscow, which has played a delicate diplomatic game of maintaining friendly ties with both Israel and Iran, warned that it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from Syria.

"There is much cooperation between our countries".

"Bilateral and multilateral cooperation of Iran and Russian Federation in different regional and worldwide matters, including regional security and fighting terrorism and [Islamic State] in Syria have had positive regional effects and this cooperation should continue until the full eradication of terrorism", the Iranian leader was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

Putin also lauded Russian-Iranian co-operation, according to the Kremlin, and said he looked forward to informing his counterpart about "the progress of our contacts with our partners on this complicated problem".

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