Russian foreign minister: US-patronaged fighters pose most danger in Syria

Israel signals free hand in Syria as US, Russia expand truce

A United States national security delegation arrived in Israel on Tuesday for high-level meetings with Israeli counterparts to discuss the Syria ceasefire deal that Washington has struck with Moscow, despite reservations from the Israeli side on not going far enough in tackling Iran's presence in southern Syria.

On Tuesday, Lavrov said Iran maintained a "legitimate" presence in Syria, according to the Interfax news agency.

The comment came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the ceasefire agreement did not include a Russian commitment to ensure Iran-linked militias would be pulled out of the country, a key Israeli demand.

"If you look at who is the greatest danger, it's just the wards of the United States, various foreign terrorists, militants who are attached to those groups of armed opposition that the USA supports", Lavrov said. Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role that the Islamic Republic plays in the war-torn country.

A U.S. State Department official said Russian Federation had agreed "to work with the Syrian regime to remove Iranian-backed forces a defined distance" from the Golan Heights frontier with Israel, which captured the plateau in the 1967 Middle East war.

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In televised remarks opening Israel's weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not speak about the new U.S.

Israel has been lobbying both big powers to deny Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah and other Shi'ite militias any permanent bases in Syria, and to keep them away from the Golan, as they gain ground while helping Damascus beat back Sunni-led rebels.

"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.

Haaretz reported that IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot secretly flew to Brussels on Thursday to meet with Gen. Curtiss Scaparrotti, head of the U.S. army's European Command, to discuss Iranian moves in Syria.

While the agreement requires all foreign forces - including Iranian troops and those backed by Tehran - to leave Syria, the deal does not set deadlines for their departure.

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