Iranian ambassador to Damascus Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani visited the Syria-Israeli border on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Monday night, together with the ambassadors of Russia, India, the Czech Republic, and Egypt.
According to a report by the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan), the participants also visited the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), headquarters at Camp al-Fawar, which is located adjacent to the border with Israel, and met with representatives of the UN force as well as with the governor of Kuneitra Ahmad Sheikh Abdul Qader, who is a supporter of President Bashar Assad.
UNDOF is the international force that was set up to oversee the 1973 Israel-Syria ceasefire, signed at the end of the Yom Kippur war.
The unusual tour took place against a background of indications that the six-year civil war in Syria between rebel forces and Syrian troops that are loyal to Bashar Assad is winding down, and that Assad will indeed remain in power in Damascus. In light of this, the border area has quieted and there is talk of creating a buffer zone between Israel and the Iranian and Hezbollah forces which move freely in and around the area.
Notably, the visit also took place ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s scheduled address to the UN General Assembly in which the prime minister will focus on Iran, the threat it continues to pose to Israel and the need for the world to annul the nuclear deal.
It also coincided with Netanyahu’s meeting with US President Donald Trump on Monday. Netanyahu told the president that he “look(s) forward to discussing with you how we can address together what you rightly called is the terrible nuclear deal with Iran and how to roll back Iran’s growing aggression in the region, especially in Syria,” and added that he is looking for a chance to “seize the opportunity for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab world.”
“I think these things go together and we look forward to talking about how we can advance both,” Netanyahu said
The emerging post-civil war scenario in which Assad remains in power in Syria continues to haunt Israel. Prior to cease-fire talks in July, Netanyahu tried to convince Russian premier Vladimir Putin to guarantee that Moscow would not tolerate any Iranian or Shi’ite militia presence but the Russians said no, saying only that they would prevent Iranians from moving less than five kilometers from the border.