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U.S. security officials arrive in Israel to discuss Syria agreement


Officials with the U.S. National Security Council arrived in Israel on Tuesday to discuss with their Israeli counterparts the recent U.S.-Russian truce agreement for Syria, officials and media said, APA reports citing Xinhua.

 

The delegation includes officials from other U.S. security agencies, and the meetings will be attended also by senior Israeli security officials, a U.S. official confirmed.

 

The Hebrew-language Ha'aretz newspaper reported that the American officials are expected to update the Israelis on the joint U.S.-Russian efforts to achieve a truce in Syria and what would be Iran's status in the war-torn country.

 

On Saturday, Russia and the U.S. announced a preliminary agreement on the terms of a ceasefire in southern Syria.

 

The agreement affirms a call for "the reduction and ultimate elimination" of foreign fighters from southern Syria, including Iran and its proxies, according to a report in the Times of Israel.

 

However, Israel, which has been lobbying Russia and the U.S. against the establishment of permanent Iranian bases in Syria, accepted the deal with worries.

 

On Monday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had informed the U.S. and Russia that Israel will continue to carry out military attacks in Syria.

 

"We are controlling our borders, we are protecting our country and we will continue to do so," Netanyahu said in a televised statement at the start of a meeting of his Likud party. "I have made it clear to our friends, firstly in Washington and then also in Moscow, that Israel will take actions in Syria, including in southern Syria, according to our understanding and our security needs," he said.

 

The statement came a day before Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Iran could maintain a "legitimate" presence in Syria, the InterFax Russian news agency reported. Lavrov said that the agreement does not include a commitment to pull Iran-backed militias out Syria.

 

Israel and Syria share a disputed border in the Golan Heights, a territory that Israel seized from Syria in the 1976 Middle East War and annexed it later.

 

Israel has been carrying out occasional airstrikes against Syrian army position, usually in response to errant fire from the six-year war between the Bashar Assad regime and rebel groups.

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