Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday as part of ongoing Israeli efforts to convince Russia and the United States to establish a demilitarized buffer zone in southern Syria, according to reports.
Israel is pushing for an agreement that would prevent “Hezbollah or other Iranian-backed militias” from operating in the area, which would extend some 30 miles (48 kilometers) beyond the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights, the Times of London reported Thursday, citing “sources in the Middle East.”
That would include the bitterly disputed city of Daraa, where Sunni rebels have fought bloody battles against regime and Hezbollah forces in recent months.
Netanyahu has repeatedly discussed the issue with Putin and US President Donald Trump, the report said.
In a terse statement, the Kremlin on Thursday said Netanyahu’s latest phone call came “at the Israeli side’s initiative. Mr. Putin and Mr. Netanyahu continued their exchange of opinions on topical issues of Russia-Israel cooperation. In the context of joint efforts against international terrorism, they discussed the Middle East settlement and the situation in Syria.”
The Israelis, the report said, were “present on the sidelines of talks in Amman between the Americans and the Russians to negotiate the future of southern Syria.”
Separate media reports said Israel, Jordan and the US had arrived at a separate understanding that any end-of-conflict agreement would leave only Syrian forces in a band along the Israeli and Jordanian borders in Deraa Province — that is, no militias like Hezbollah that are loyal to Iran.
Israel also frequently coordinates with Russia to avoid clashes over Syria when it carries out periodic airstrikes on Hezbollah weapon convoys.