DAMASCUS, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview aired late Wednesday that Israel is hindering the reach of a settlement for the situation in southern Syria.
In an interview with the Iranian Al-Alam TV and released by Syrian state news agency SANA, Assad said that so far there are no actual results of the efforts exerted to reach a deal with the rebels due to the U.S.-Israeli pressure on the militant groups.
He said that there was a chance for reconciliation, but the "Americans and Israelis prevented it."
The rebel-held areas in the southern provinces of Daraa and Qunaitera will be facing two options: either a settlement based on an agreement with the armed groups or a military showdown, the Syrian president said.
Earlier reports said that the Israelis want the withdraw of Iranian forces from southern Syria to accept the agreement, which will see the return of the Syrian army to the rebel-held areas in Daraa, near Jordan, and Qunaitera, on the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
But Assad made it clear that the presence of the Iranian military experts and forces are not for negotiation.
He said the Iranian-Syrian relations are strategic and not subject to any settlement in the south, adding that the Israelis are trying to provoke and embarrass Iran through their demands.
Assad's remarks came as a Russian-mediated agreement was said to have been discussed with Israel and the United States to settle the situation in southern Syria without battles, akin to what happened in other areas in the war-torn country.
The agreement was about evacuating the rebels, who refuse to reconcile with the government, to rebel-held areas in northern Syria, while the militants who want to stay must hand over their weapons and embark on a reconciliation process with the government.