Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Israel says ‘not considering’ return of Golan Heights to Syrian govt.

Tel Aviv is not considering handing the Golan Heights over to the Damascus government, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says.

The minister explained that no talks with Damascus are taking place at the moment and are unlikely to be held in the future.

“No negotiations taking place right now between Israel and Syria. There is not much to negotiate actually aside from security issues. Israel is not even considering, and never will, returning the Golan Heights to Syria, there is no much room for negotiations right now,” Lapid added.

This is the first time the new Israeli government has spoken out regarding its position on the Golan Heights issue since Naftali Bennet became Prime Minister, replacing veteran politician Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israeli forces captured most of the region in response to an artillery and air offensive by the Arab Republic, which came to Egypt’s aid in the armed conflict. The war itself started with Israeli airstrikes against Egyptian military air bases, but Tel Aviv insists it was a pre-emptive strike.

Over the years, Israel extended its authority to the Golan Heights, appointing officials and holding local elections there, despite protests from some local communities and a lack of international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the land. However, the administration of US President Donald Trump changed Washington’s longstanding stance on the issue in 2019, officially recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Following negotiations with Lapid, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow regrets that Ankara has not yet managed to fully implement the agreement to separate terrorists from opposition forces in Syria’s Idlib, and keeps proposing solutions.

“The only way to resolve the situation in Idlib in line with [UN Security Council’s] Resolution 2254 is for our Turkish colleagues to fully implement the agreements that Presidents [Vladimir] Putin and [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan reached a couple of years ago and that envision separation of normal, sane opposition forces from terrorists, first of all from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham,” he added.

This process was launched but it is far from being completed,” Lavrov stated, noting, “We keep discussing this with our Turkish colleagues through the military, we offer exact ways to assist agreement implementation by our Turkish partners.”

Lavrov stressed that the practice of exchanging information on the situation in Syria between Russia and Israel has proven its usefulness and will be continued.

“Those practical issues that arise in this connection [on the situation in Syria] are discussed extensively by our [Russian and Israeli] militaries on a daily basis. I believe that this practice has proven its usefulness. Today we agreed that it would be continued,” he said.

According to Lavrov, the situation in Syria remains challenging in many respects due to the fact that many countries’ interests are intertwined in that process.

“There are legitimate interests, for example, such as security interests. There are interests that are not quite legitimate, putting it mildly. I mean, first and foremost, the illegal occupation of a considerable part of Syria’s territory by the United States, the exploitation of natural resources and hydrocarbons, grain and water resources belonging to the Syrian people and, of course, the United States’ activities to connive with Kurdish separatism,” he noted.

The Russia’s top diplomat added that Moscow was opposed to turning Syria into an arena of confrontation between third countries. Taking into account all the realities, it is essential to move towards the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“That integrity must be restored, which means foiling any attempts of separatism and moving towards the organization of an inclusive Syrian nationwide dialogue,” he stated.

Source: Sputnik and TASS

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