© Reuters / Ronen Zvulun
Blaming Iran for all the problems of the Middle East is just bad policy, Moscow has said as the national security advisers from Russia, Israel and the US meet in Jerusalem to discuss escalating tensions in the region.
“Just like us, Iran is legitimately present on Syrian territory to help fight terrorists, invited by the legitimate Syrian government,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Monday, after a meeting with his Egyptian colleague Sameh Shoukry. Much of their press conference was dedicated to another meeting, however, as Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev was in Jerusalem for talks with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat and US national security advisor John Bolton.
Further meetings between Patrushev, Bolton and Ben-Shabbat are scheduled for Tuesday, and the three are supposed to produce a joint statement.
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Bolton was dispatched to Israel while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, after US President Donald Trump decided not to launch an attack on Iran last week. Pompeo’s officially published agenda includes discussions of “dangers posed by Iranian destabilizing activity.”
Met w/ my Russian counterpart Nikolay Patrushev in Jerusalem today. We and our teams covered Ukraine, arms control, Venezuela, and other issues. Looking forward to historic trilateral meeting tomorrow on Middle East regional security with our Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat. pic.twitter.com/ImO3vXXanr
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) June 24, 2019
This focus on Iran to the exclusion of everything else was “counterproductive,” Lavrov said. “Israel and the Americans are above all concerned with Iran, not just when it comes to Syria but also this region in general, and maybe even in a much wider geographical area.”
“We consider it very, very dangerous how the situation is developing in [the Persian Gulf] as well as in Syria,” the top Russian diplomat added.
There are attempts to turn the territory of Syria into a battlefield between Israel and Iran, between Sunnis and Shia. This is bad and only aggravates the crisis.
He did not name any particular country as the culprit, but the thrust of the remark was perfectly clear. Earlier in the day, Washington announced additional sanctions against Iran, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally.
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In his talks with Shoukry, Lavrov expressed concern about the rumored US peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian question, saying that “secretly developed ideas” that reject the two-state solution were a departure from the framework of UN resolutions and other internationally agreed principles.
UN resolutions should also be the basis of resolving the conflict in Syria, Lavrov said, condemning attempts to “encourage separatist tendencies in this or that part of Syria” and interfere with the legitimate government – once again indirectly pointing to the US.
Trump’s refusal to escalate the military confrontation with Tehran – going so far as to question the massive US military presence in the Persian Gulf in a series of tweets on Monday – even as he went along with sanctions and threats, seems to have left Iran hawks such as Bolton and Pompeo painted into a corner.
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Netanyahu is in a similar position. He can’t accuse Trump of insufficient support for Israel after such explicit evidence to the contrary as relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Israeli claim to the occupied Golan Heights. He is also in political limbo at home, after failing to form a coalition government and having to call a new general election for September.
Prime Minister Netanyahu met, earlier today, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, with the Secretary of the Russian National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. pic.twitter.com/eeK5VGjPTk
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) June 24, 2019
This has reduced the Israeli leader to hosting “a Russian victory lap” in Jerusalem while the “emasculated” Bolton looks on, the liberal daily Haaretz noted on Monday. Describing Russia as the rising power in the Middle East due to Washington’s reluctance to launch wars against Syria and Iran, Haaretz argued that Israel and the US have “little choice but to do business” with Moscow.
Bolton is Trump’s “third national security adviser in two and a half years, and could well be out of a job very soon,” the paper noted.
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