Iran to top Israel-Russia talks on Thursday

Israeli soldiers take part in military training in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, near the Israeli-Syrian border in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2017
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Iran to top Israel-Russia talks on Thursday

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to voice opposition to what the Israeli leader charged were Iran’s attempts to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria.
“In the framework of a (future peace agreement) or without one, Iran is attempting to base itself permanently in Syria — either through a military presence on the ground or a naval presence — and also through a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet in public remarks on Sunday.
“I will express to President Putin Israel’s vigorous opposition to this possibility,” he said.
Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has been Syrian President Bashar Assad’s staunchest backer and has provided militia fighters to help him.
Russia, also Assad’s ally, is seen as holding the balance of power in achieving a deal on Syria’s future. In Geneva on Friday, the first UN-led Syria peace talks in a year ended without a breakthrough.
Israeli officials have pointed to Tehran’s steadily increasing influence in the region during the six-year-old Syrian conflict, whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or Shiite proxies, especially Hezbollah.
Majority-Shiite Iran says its forces are in Syria to defend shrines. However, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces said in November the Islamic Republic may seek to set up naval bases in Yemen or Syria in the future.
Last year, Avi Dichter, the chair of Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Iran had tried several times in the past to move forces into the Syrian Golan Heights, next to territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Dichter said those moves were repelled, but gave no details.
Netanyahu has said that Israel has carried out dozens of strikes to prevent weapons smuggling to the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah via Syria. Two years ago, Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire.
“I hope that we’ll be able to reach certain understandings to lessen the possible friction between our forces and their forces, as we’ve successfully done so far,” he said at the Cabinet meeting, referring to the Russian military.


Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

Pro-government forces stand in the destroyed Thalateen Street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 24, 2018, as civilians return to see their homes after the regime seized the camp and adjacent neighborhoods of Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad earlier in the week from the Daesh group. (AFP / LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 28 min 49 sec ago
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Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

  • he so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property in which to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.
  • Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or may not learn of the legal requirements in time.

JEDDAH: The Assad regime in Syria was accused on Saturday of using a new law on urban development to rid the country of all political opposition.

The so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.

However property rights are in a state of confusion after a seven-year war that has created more than 5 million refugees and 6 million internally displaced people. Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or not aware of the legal requirements in time.

The Assad regime is using the confusion to create a suitable environment for demographic change, Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News. 

“The regime has a two-fold goal,” he said. “First, terrorize the opposition and supporters of the Syrian revolution so that they lose the right to their properties.

“Second, there is talk of reconstruction in Syria now. This law sends out a message to investors that their interests lie with the regime. It is an attempt to tempt companies and business people to support the regime, because the regime is the only party that approves bids and gives grants and contracts. All this merely adds to the Syrians’ plight and misery.”

Al-Aridi said the attempted land grab was being resisted by European countries, especially France and Germany. “The Syrian Negotiating Committee is also exerting a very important effort so that such an evil act will not happen,” he said. 

Also on Saturday, the US warned Damascus it would take “firm action” if the regime violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province in advance of an expected offensive.

Al-Aridi said any such offensive would be a breach of agreements between Russia and the US on de-escalation zones, and he warned the regime and Iran against “playing games” with the US. “Such threats are part of a response to the two unanswered Israeli attacks on Iran’s military positions in Syria,” he said.

“They area also meant to divert attention from the American-Israeli intent to kick Iranian militias and forces out of Syria.”

He said the regime and Iran could do nothing without Russian support. “We don’t think the Russians are willing to provide such support, or to mess with the US or Israel. Parallel to such threats, Assad is trying to make certain reconciliation agreements with what they call ‘Syrians in liberated areas.’ We believe that they cannot do anything of the sort.”