Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iranian military advisers are in Syria at the request of the Damascus government.
Addressing the European Union lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday, Zarif also dismissed media allegations that Iran has sent troops to Syria to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying Tehran has no “boots on the ground” but only “military advisers” at the request of the Syrian government.
“There we have military advisers at the request of the government of this country (Syria). We will move out military advisers when the local government deems it necessary for us to remove them,” he pointed out.
He said Syria has a “legitimate” government which is also recognized by the United Nations, adding, “Those who are conducting measures in Syria without a mandate by a legitimate government are violating international regulations.”
“You feel the consequences of the growth of extremism in our region in terms of refugees that come to Europe, in terms of the spread of unfortunate terrorist incidents in various European cities. Extremism cannot be contained in one country or one region. It’s a global menace, requiring a global response,” the Iranian minister told the European Parliament session.
He stressed the importance of cessation of conflict in Syria, saying it is the Syrian nation who should decide their own fate.
Zarif emphasized that regional countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, cannot determine the outcomes of Syria peace talks, saying, “We will not make any decision for the Syrian people. They cannot also decide for the Syrian people.”
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has claimed the lives of some 470,000 people and left 1.9 million injured, according to the so-called Syrian Center for Policy Research.
Moreover, 6.36 million people have been displaced internally and more than four million others have fled the country since the beginning of the conflict.
Syria accuses Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar of funding and arming terrorist groups operating inside the country, including Daesh.
Zarif: Abandon ‘military’ illusion on Syria
Addressing a joint press briefing with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on Monday, Zarif said Iran’s “regional neighbors” must abandon their “illusion” that the Syria issue has a military solution.
The Iranian foreign minister urged parties to stick to their commitments agreed in Munich Security Conference by world powers on Friday about cessation of hostilities in Syria.
“What we agreed in Munich is cessation of hostilities, not a pause, to allow the allies of certain regional players to regroup and that is extremely important,” he said.
“We have to accept that Daesh and al-Nusra are not going to serve anybody as a political leverage. As soon as some of our regional neighbors understand this reality and abandon the illusion that they can take advantage of this in order to advance their political agenda – delusional as it may be – then we are moving towards a realization of the comprehensive cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire,” he added.
Zarif noted that Iran has does not use diplomacy “to gain anything, but at the same time people cannot use diplomacy in order to provide a human shield for al-Nusra and Daesh working as a leverage.”
Speaking in a Monday televised speech, the Syrian president pointed to a ceasefire agreement reached in Munich and said any truce means preventing terrorists from reinforcing their positions.
According to the Munich statement, the ceasefire in Syria does not include areas held by groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council, including Daesh and al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.