Israel could drop its opposition to Russia stationing troops on the Golan Heights as members of the UN peacekeeping force – if Moscow cancels plans to ship S-300 missiles to Syria, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.
Despite reports to the contrary, a-Sharq al-Awsat said that Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni had discussed the matter in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with the latter suggesting cancellation of the S-300 deal as a “gesture” to Israel for Jerusalem’s agreement to allow Russian troops to take up posts on the Golan.
It is not clear why Russia is interested in stationing its troops on the Golan, but in June, the country expressed interest in sending the troops, in place of Austrian troops who had left their posts as fighting between Syrian troops and rebels raged nearby.
Russia applied to have its troops join the patrol known as UNDOF, but according to UN rules, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it cannot include its troops in the Golan peacekeeping force, as per the UN-brokered cease-fire agreement between Israel and Syria which established UNDOF after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Earlier this year Israel expressed concern over Russian plans to deliver the anti-aircraft s-300 system, saying its range could reach deep into the Jewish state and threaten flights over its main commercial airport near Tel Aviv.
In May, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Lebanese news outlet Al-Manar that the country had already received a first shipment of S-300 parts from Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin disputed this claim last month, saying that the country understood Israel’s concerns, while not ruling out the system’s eventual transfer to Syria, as “the contract was signed several years ago.”