Syria: Iran, Hezbollah presence not up for discussion
Syria’s deputy foreign minister has hailed Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement’s assistance to Damascus in its counter-terrorism fight, saying the pair’s withdrawal from the Arab country is not up for discussion.
“This topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria. We cannot let anyone even raise this issue,” Faisal Mekdad told Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Wednesday.
He also said that those who demanded the pullout of the Iranian military advisers and Hezbollah forces from Syria “are considering the possibility of intervention in all parts of Syria, including the support of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the region.”
Iran offers Syria advisory military support in its fight against terrorism. Hezbollah forces have also been aiding the Syrian government clear areas bordering Lebanon from terrorist groups.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” if it does not comply with a list of 12 US demands, including the withdrawal of “all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.”
On May 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the foreign forces in Syria had to leave the Arab country because the Syrian government had succeeded in its fight against large-scale terrorism.
Russia, too, has military advisers in Syria. It also runs a number of military bases and has been carrying out an aerial bombardment campaign on behalf of the Syrian government.
Mekdad said he “highly appreciates” the help of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in Syria’s battle against terrorism.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Mekdad touched on a recent US statement on the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, saying, “The main goal of such statements is to pump the money out of the Arab countries [by scaring them with a prospect of a US pullout].”
The Syrian official also accused Washington of financing and supplying terrorists with arms.
He said the US-led coalition operating in Syria unauthorized had deliberately bombed oil wells in the Arab country to render them useless for the Damascus government.
“I believe that the oxygen for terrorist groups comes from the United States,” Mekdad said, urging Washington to “stop supporting terrorists and respect Syria’s sovereignty and choice of the Syrian people.”
A US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.