Scoop: Russia seeks trilateral talks with U.S. and Israel on Syria
Russia has asked Israel to encourage the U.S. to agree to hold high-level trilateral talks on Syria, two senior Israeli officials tell me.
Why it matters: Israel's main focus in Syria is getting Iran out, and that would likely only be possible through U.S.-Russian cooperation.
Flashback: The U.S., Russian and Israeli national security advisers last met to discuss Syria in Jerusalem in June 2019, with John Bolton representing the U.S.
- Bolton was fired two months later, and there was no follow-up meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov raised the issue with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid when they met in Moscow two weeks ago, and the Russians have also raised it with Bennett's national security adviser, Hulata.
- Last Thursday, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk met in Geneva with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and with Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev.
- The Russians requested the meeting and wanted to discuss steps toward a political solution in Syria and to see if the U.S. was willing to offer sanctions waivers to allow oil and gas to travel through Syria to Lebanon, which is facing dire shortages.
- According to the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, McGurk raised the potential withdrawal of Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias from the areas close to the border with Israel in the Golan Heights.
What’s next: Israeli officials tell me they support a trilateral meeting between the national security advisers. The White House says "there are no trilateral meetings to preview."
- Bennett is also expected to visit Moscow in the coming weeks for his first meeting with Putin.