Against the backdrop of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton will meet on Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, ahead of a three-way meeting of security advisers from Israel, the U.S. and Russia about Syria’s future.
Russian security officer Nikolai Patrushev and Meir Ben-Shabbat, the prime minister’s national security adviser, will participate in the talks about Iranian influence in Syria, particularly through the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force.
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Netanyahu has aspired to hold such three-way talks ever since Russia boosted its presence in the region, in search of closer cooperation toward the goal of reducing Iranian influence in Syria.
Netanyahu will meet with Patrushev on Monday and will also attend talks with aides to Patrushev and Ben-Shabbat on Tuesday.
A diplomatic official told Haaretz that “this unprecedented meeting of two world powers with Israel, in Israel, underscores its global standing and sends a powerful message to the region, especially to our enemies. The meeting is a climax of many political steps, among them Netanyahu’s meetings with presidents Trump and Putin. These meetings created the opportunity for a historic meeting such as this, which will contribute a great deal to Israel’s security interests in the region.”
Jerusalem estimates the talks will continue past this week’s meetings, on the basis of principles that will be agreed upon there.
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Russia is expected to ask the United States to recognize Assad’s renewed regime and lift global sanctions. Washington is expected to press in return for distancing the Iranians from Syria. Stronger European Union member states have rejected any recognition of Assad while others have demanded significant reforms before any discussion.
Israel believes that holding such talks in Jerusalem makes it a central regional partner in world powers’ discussions about their interests in Syria, and that this sends a public message to Iran’s leaders.
The Russians have thus far been ambivalent about Israel’s demands with regard to Syria. They have hoped that Israel would not disrupt efforts to stabilize Assad’s regime, but have not made any commitment to getting Iranian forces out of Syria.
Moscow has at times limited Israel’s military moves in the region through other means of coordination and deterrence. Such restrictions have especially grown since Syria’s downing of a Russian aircraft last year, during a confrontation with Israel, in which more than a dozen Russian servicemen lost their lives.