Iran on Monday rejected a call from Russia to pull Iranian forces out of Syria in the event a permanent peace agreement is reached in the war-stricken country, The Times of Israel reported.
“No one can force Iran to do anything,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said, according to the Tasnim news website.
“As long as terrorism exists and the Syrian government wants, Iran will have presence [in Syria],” Qasemi said. “Those who have entered Syria without the consent of the Syrian government should leave.”
After a meeting with Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that foreign powers must pull their troops out of Syria to respect any final political settlement in the country.
“We presume that, in connection with the significant victories and success of the Syrian army in the fight against terrorism… with the onset of the political process in its more active phase, foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Putin said, according to CNN.
Russia’s envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, later added that Putin’s comment was aimed at Iran, Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, the United States and Turkey.
“This statement involves all foreign troops in Syria including the Turkish, American, Iranian and Hezbollah.” The envoy clarified that Russia had no immediate plans for withdrawal.
Israel has time and again demanded Iran’s withdrawal from Syria, accusing the regime in Tehran of building a permanent military infrastructure in the country and using it as a base for its expansionist behavior in the region, including direct attacks against the Jewish State.
The U.S. echoed Israel’s demand this week, when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech Monday that “Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.” The condition was part of 12 requirements spelled out by Pompeo for a new agreement with Tehran, following the collapse of the JCPOA, that aims to put an end to the Islamic Republic’s “malign” behavior in the Middle East.
In an op-ed for The Hill published last month, TIP CEO and President Joshua S. Block, wrote that the U.S. must “make clear to Moscow” that American forces will not pull out of Syria “before the Iranians are out of the picture. Anything short of that is not up for debate.”
[Photo: Darius Bazargan / YouTube ]