At a press conference in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, the Russian Foreign Minister tried to convince the West that sending Russian peacekeepers to the Golan Heights is meant to bring stability and security to the region.
Photo source: Reuters
Russia's initiative to send its peacekeepers to the Golan Heights is not an attempt to increase its influence in the region, but is aimed at maintaining security in the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists in Rio de Janeiro.
"Some people are also saying that Russia will be trying to increase its influence in the region. I want to say right away that the purposes of our initiative are different from that," Lavrov said."Our sole purpose is to ensure security in this very fragile area of the Middle East."
"The Golan Heights are part of a region that was probably the calmest and safest in the past few decades. There were never any aggravations there," Lavrov said.
In Lavrov's opinion, the decision to send Russian peacekeepers to the Golan Heights should be made only by Israel and Syria, and the UN Security Council is not authorized to make formal decisions on this matter.
"According to the rules of the UN, the Security Council does not make formal decisions on what national contingents are involved in a specific peacekeeping operation. It's a prerogative of the UN secretary general," Lavrov said.
"In this situation, taking into account these rules, everything depends on the position of Israel and Syria," the minister added.
"If Israel and Syria agree and if the UN secretary general makes an appropriate decision, our peacekeepers will fulfill the task of stabilizing the situation in this region in an honest, decent and reliable manner," Lavrov said.
On Friday, Austria announced its decision to withdraw its peacekeepers from the Golan Heights. On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would be ready to replace the Austrian peacekeepers if the regional powers do not object.
UN official Marin Nesirky said on Friday that the peacekeepers' mandate in the division zone between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights does not allow Russia to send its peacekeepers to the region.
Israeli Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum said on Monday Israel has no objections to the possible deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights.
In the meantime, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said on Tuesday that Israel is discussing the replacement of peacekeepers at the Golan Heights with Russia and hopes to find a country that would send its peacekeepers there instead of the Austrian forces.
This article first appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines.