London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sent an indirect message to Israel last year in which he described Lebanon’s southern border as “the safest place in the world,” seeking to reassure Tel Aviv that his Shi’a militia have no intention of taking any action against Israel, according to leaked documents seen by Asharq Al-Awsat.
In cooperation with the Masarat Center and the Wathaiq Dimashq [Damascus Documents] website, Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained a copy of the full transcript of a meeting between Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov on May 23, 2013, in which the Syrian side passed along Nasrallah’s reassurances to Israel.
During the meeting Bogdanov told Mekdad that he had a three-hour midnight meeting with Sheikh Mohamed Raad and Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.
According to Bogdanov, Nasrallah told him: “You can tell the Israelis that Lebanon’s southern borders are the safest place in the world because all of our attention is focused on what is happening in Syria,” confirming that Hezbollah “does not harbor any intention of taking any action against Israel.”
According to the leaked document, Mekdad inquired about the role that joint UN–Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was playing regarding the Syrian crisis.
“[Brahimi] said there is no solution to the crisis because both sides [the government and the opposition] have adopted the military and security solution and do not have the desire to engage in a dialogue or reach a peaceful solution because they hope to achieve success militarily,” Bogdanov said during the meeting.
As for whether Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad intends to remain in power, Mekdad said: “President Assad . . . has become a basic need,” and without him “there would not be Syria . . . and the Syrian army would turn into terrorist gangs and fragmented factions.”
“Therefore, the main goal of the conference [Geneva I] should be stemming foreign intervention,” Mekdad added.
The meeting was also attended by a number of senior officials on both sides, including senior Syrian Foreign Ministry figure Ahmad Arnous and the Syrian Ambassador to Moscow Riyad Haddad, as well as the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for Middle East and North Africa, Sergey Vershinin.
The leaked document quotes Vershinin as asking Mekdad: “I will meet with the Israelis during my visit, do you want me to convey any message to the Israeli side?”
Mekdad answered: “There are no messages from us to the Israelis, particularly following the attack on Jamraya [military research center near Damascus] and Damascus International Airport, which despite being destructive, failed to achieve its objectives as there were no Hezbollah weapons there.”
“Our message to them is that we will not be silent in the face of any new attack. If next time they fire a rocket [into Syria], we will respond by firing several rockets [at Israeli targets],” Mekdad said.
“We will not allow them to exploit our situation and we will provide Hezbollah with the sophisticated weapons it needs,” he added.