Tripartite meeting expected to help remove “detonator” for Middle East crises

Saturday, 2019-06-29 17:15:44
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Head of Israel’s National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat; US National Security Adviser, John Bolton; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, shake hands at the opening of a trilateral security summit in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – National security advisers of the United States, Russia and Israel recently convened for a meeting in Jerusalem to discuss regional issues, with a focus on the situations in Iran and Syria. During the first-ever tripartite security conference, Russia, the US and Israel, whose security interests are closely associated with outstanding issues in the Middle East, could make proposals aimed at reducing tensions and removing the “detonator” for regional crises.

The Jerusalem meeting gathered US National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai P. Patrushev, and Head of Israel’s National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat. Russia affirmed Iran is actively involved in fighting terrorism in Syria, calling on all parties to take action to mitigate tensions. Regarding the Syrian situation, the Russian representative pointed out that military is not the solution to ease the conflict. Meanwhile, the US side stated that, amid escalating tensions in the Middle East, President Donald Trump, despite having imposed new sanctions on Iran, still remains open to negotiations to completely remove those sanctions and to verify Iran’s nuclear weapon programme. Ahead of the conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised that the meeting aimed to seek opportunities to help achieve stability for the region, especially in Syria.

As a neighbour of Syria with constant confrontation with Iran, Israel is concerned that a military conflict between the US and Iran will spread to its northern border adjacent to Lebanon and Syria. In recent years, Israel has conducted hundreds of air strikes aimed at targets of Iran and the Hezbollah Movement in Syria. Tel Aviv has repeatedly accused Iran and the Hezbollah forces in Lebanon of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war in Syria and turning Syria into a new front against Israel and threatening the national security of the Jewish State. Meanwhile, Russia and the US are always competing to gain influence in the Middle East through the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Backing the two rival sides in Syria, Russia and the US have their own calculations in their “chess moves” in the Middle Eastern country.

That Russia supported Syrian government troops to win the fight against the IS has brought about a new position for Moscow. Meanwhile, the US-backed rebels are increasingly losing their ground. In order to find a comprehensive political solution for Syria, cooperation between Russia and the US is indispensable. United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, is planning a visit to Russia in early July to discuss the stabilisation of the political situation in Syria. Pedersen said that Russia-US co-operation could deepen the dialogue at the highest level, based on the positive results of recent negotiations. He hailed Russian-US co-operation as the most critical factor for any international coordination efforts in handling the Syrian crisis.

The balance of power on the field has been in favor of Syrian government forces, leading the US to “shake hands” with Russia in resolving the crisis. US special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, said that the US and Russia held negotiations on the possibility of removing Syria from current international isolation if Damascus agreed to some conditions, including a ceasefire agreement in Idlib province. The US said it was joining Russia to seek a “step-by-step approach” to put an end to the eight-year civil war in Syria.

Washington admitted that a compromise between Russia and the US concerning the Syrian crisis requires tough decisions, but the “handshake” between the two powers opens a glimmer hope in finding a way out of the crisis. Despite being an US ally, Israel also has its interests closely associated with Russia. So, the three parties sitting together is a positive signal in the efforts to build trust and work out solutions to ease tensions and help remove the “detonator” for the Middle East crises.