Israel and Iran engaged over the weekend in indirect negotiations in Jordan regarding fighting in southwestern Syria, according to Elaph, a Saudi-owned website, Jerusalem Post reported on Monday
Elaph reported that the Iranians pledged not to participate in expected battles in southwestern Syria between President Bashar Assad’s forces and rebel groups, and Israel has made it clear that it will not intervene in the battles in the tri-border area, as long as Hezbollah and the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias are not involved.
The unconfirmed report said the negotiations were conducted last weekend between Iran’s ambassador to Jordan, who was in one hotel room in Amman with Iranian security personnel, while in the next room there were senior Israeli security officials, including the deputy head of the Mossad. The report said a Jordanian mediator carried messages between the sides.
Elaph sources said that “the talks with the Israelis were related to fighting in Syria and the nearing campaign in southern Syria, particularly in Daraa and Kuneitra.”
Furthermore, they said that Israel made clear to the Iranians they should not become involved in fighting close to the Israel-Syria ceasefire lines in the Golan and the Israel-Jordan border. One participant in the talks reportedly said that “the sides discussed this issue with the Israelis, and arrived at a quick agreement that even surprised the Israeli representatives.”
Iran’s ambassador to Jordan, Dr. Mostafa Moslehzadeh, reportedly received instructions from senior officials to conduct the negotiations with Israel in Amman.
In recent days, Israel and Iran are said to have passed a large number of messages via Jordan regarding the situation in Syria. Israel has warned Iran of the possibility of conflict should Tehran send its troops and Hezbollah militants to southern Syria in order to participate in the fighting there. Jordan also passed the messages to Syrian and Russian officials.
Elaph sources said Iran understood its heavy losses in Syria resulting from Israeli attacks in the country. For this reason, Iran may have been willing to agree not to participate in battles in southern Syria, on the condition that Israel will not participate at all in combat in the region.
Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan includes an Israeli umbrella of defense, which provides for Israeli military action should Jordan be threatened.
In a related development Russia said on Monday only Syrian army troops should be on the country’s southern border with Jordan and Israel, after Washington warned of “firm measures” over truce violations in the region.
Rebels control stretches of southwest Syria, bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, while Syrian army troops and allied Iran-backed militias hold nearby territory.
The United States has voiced concern about reports of an impending Syrian army offensive in a “de-escalation zone” in the southwest, warning Damascus it would respond to breaches.
“Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Monday.
“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,” he said.
Jordan confirmed on Monday that it was discussing south Syria with Washington and Moscow, and all three agreed on the need to preserve the ceasefire, which reduced violence since they brokered it last year.
Reuters/ J Post/Elaph