At a joint news conference in Helsinki on Monday dominated by President Donald Trump’s insistence that Russia did not interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, both the American leader and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin were keen to stress their agreement on other areas as well, including Israel’s security and the wider situation in the Middle East.
Putin said that once Syrian rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship had been “crushed in the southwest of Syria,” both Israel and Syria should again comply with the May 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement.
“This will bring peace to Golan Heights, and bring more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also to provide security of the state of Israel,” Putin said, speaking through an interpreter.
“Mr. President [Trump] paid special attention to the issue during today’s negotiations,” Putin added. “And I would like to confirm that Russia is interested in this development and will act accordingly.”
On an official visit to Russia last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his support for the 1974 Agreement as a tested means of restoring a peaceful border between Israel and Syria.
“We had no problem with the Assad regime; for 40 years, not one bullet was fired at the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu told reporters in Moscow. Iran’s military intervention in Syria, where it has supported Assad alongside Russian forces, began in 2013, bringing Iranian troops and terrorist proxies into close proximity with the IDF’s positions along the border.
Trump specifically referenced Iran’s military presence in Syria, pledging that the United States would not permit the Tehran regime “to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS.”
“We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area,” Trump said.
The President then praised Putin for his approach towards Israel.
“President Putin also is helping Israel,” he said. “And we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu, and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel.”
Trump continued: “So in that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel. And Israel would be working with us. So both countries would work jointly.”
The President concluded: “I think that working with Israel is a great thing. And creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.”