Putin: Syrian Ceasefire Good for Israel, Too

YERUSHALAYIM -
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks near the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) checkpoint in Quneitra, Syria, July 8. (Reuters/Alaa al-Faqir)

A ceasefire deal to stop the fighting in southern Syria will be good for the region – including for Israel, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference at the G-20 summit of industrialized and developing nations. In response to a question by a reporter from Ma’ariv, Putin said that the deal would help stabilize the region, making it safer for all countries, including Israel.

Under the deal, Syrian soldiers and rebel groups are set to lay down their arms on Sunday afternoon. Commenting on the deal worked out Friday between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that President Trump and Putin “had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the areas and the violence, once we defeat ISIS.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “Russian, American and Jordanian experts … agreed on a memorandum of understanding to create a de-escalation zone” in several areas of southern Syria, including Quneitra, located on the Golan Heights on the border with Israel.

In recent weeks, tensions on the Syrian side of the border have risen considerably, with almost nonstop shelling by the various sides in the civil war – Syrian troops versus a slew of rebel and terrorist groups, among them Hezbollah, which, with Iranian backing, has been attempting to set up a zone of influence on the Golan border with Israel. Israel has so far been largely able to prevent this, chipping away at Hezbollah influence with several recent attacks on arms convoys that were to deliver arms to terrorists in the region. Last week, over a dozen errant rockets fired in the war in Syria made their way into Israeli territory, prompting a response by Israel.

Speaking over the weekend, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said he did not believe the truce would last. “This is a long-standing conflict and will take more than an agreement between Trump and Putin to quell,” he said at a weekend political event in Mevasseret Zion. “This agreement will fall apart as others have.”