Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Syrian government seeks to recapture southwest, foreign minister says

Syrian government seeks to recapture southwest, foreign minister says

Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Tehran's influence in Syria, said it destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria in May, after Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.

"You should not believe the statements made about the agreement on Syria's south as long as the USA forces have not withdrawn from al-Tanf", he said.

Iran has repeatedly said in the past that it only has advisers in Syria but thousands of Iran-backed groups from Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have played instrumental role in helping government forces regain control of areas held by insurgents.

Israel has been pushing Russian Federation on this issue for a while, and had conditioned not interfering in Syria's offensive against rebels in southern Syria on getting Iran, along with Shi'ite militias, out of the border region.

Mr McKenzie said the U.S. troops and their local militia allies were staying in At-Tanf, dismissing Assad's call for their withdrawal.

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a press conference in Damascus, Syria, on June 2, 2018.

"Contrary to the unlawful presence of the USA and some regional countries in Syria, Iran's presence is not imposed and is not the result of an illegal military aggression", he told the Shargh newspaper, according to state-run Press TV.

"Israel appreciates Russia's understanding of our security needs, especially with regard to the situation on our northern border", Lieberman said following his meeting.

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US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert expressed concerns about an operation in southwestern Dara'a province, claiming that it fell within a de-escalation zone in Syria.

Israel must demand a full accounting of the Iranian forces in Syria and that any agreements made on the south be based on verification.

He also stressed that the Iranian forces were in Syria at the invitation of President Bashar Assad.

Backed by Russian air power and Iranian and Hizbullah militias on the ground, Assad's forces have gained significant ground in recent months in the seven-year civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people and driven another 5 million overseas as refugees.

The return of the Syrian army to Israel's northern border in return for the distancing of Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah from the area has been the subject of back channel discussions between Israel and Russian Federation over recent weeks.

"Neither Turkey, nor U.S. has a right to negotiate [about] the [fate of the] Syrian cities", he said, as cited by the Syrian SANA state news agency.

The Syrian government hopes to restore military presence in Daraa and Qunaitera after the evacuation of rebels, in order to control all border points between Daraa and Jordan as well as areas between Quanitera and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, while activating the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Syria and Israel.

"As we have declared earlier, Iranian advisers have no presence in southern Syria", he said.

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