Syria: Withdrawal of Iran, Hezbollah ‘Not on Agenda’

Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, said Wednesday that the withdrawal of Iran and Hezbollah resistance from the Arab country was 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,” he told Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Wednesday.

“All these forces oppose terrorism. They are not making an attempt to violate the sovereignty and territory of Syria,” he said in comments translated into Russian.

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.”

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.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday, with the Russian leader saying “foreign armed forces will withdraw from Syrian territory” although he gave few details.

But Russia’s chief Syria negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev later told journalists that the withdrawal of foreign troops should be done “as a whole”.

Mekdad, however, suggested Russia had not meant to say this.

“I don’t think that our Russian friends meant the forces that entered Syria in agreement with the Syrian government,” he said.

“Russia demanded the withdrawal of forces that are here without agreement: that is the forces of the US, France, Turkey and other forces that are here illegitimately.”

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