DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – Syria says the foreign forces who have made their way into the country and established bases there without the consent of Damascus are occupiers and should leave Syrian soil.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said it is "unacceptable” for any foreign troops to have a presence on the Syrian soil without the government’s approval, adding that Damascus will deal with this issue as a case of "occupation.”
Mekdad was referring to the presence of American and Turkish forces in Syria, whose respective countries have refused to pull them out in defiance of Damascus’ warnings.
Turkey and the U.S. have also their own troops on the ground in Syria.
The comments come days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is to keep up its so-called Euphrates Shield military operation in northern Syria, which serves to keep U.S.-backed Kurdish militants away from its borders.
Mekdad called the Turkish presence "invasive,” and urged Ankara to stop intervening in Damascus’ affairs.
The United States led scores of its allies in an invasion of Syria in 2014, claiming it sought to root out the terror group of Daesh. The mission had no Syrian or UN mandate.
In a unilateral mission, Washington has also deployed its own troops to Syria, where they support anti-Damascus terrorists.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s point man has met with Syrian President Assad for talks on counterterrorism fight and the Arab country’s path towards peace and reconstruction.
Assad received Alexander Lavrentiev in Damascus, where the two sides discussed bilateral anti-terror cooperation, the peace process between the Syrian government and opposition in the Kazakh capital of Astana and the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, the official SANA news agency reported.
At the request of Damascus, Russia has been providing airpower to the Syrian army’s ground operations against terrorists.
The support, alongside Iranian military advisory assistance, enabled Syria to liberate all the territories captured by the Daesh terrorists and reverse many gains by the terrorists across the country.
Russia, together with Iran and Turkey, has been mediating the Astana talks aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.
As part of the Astana format, the Russian resort city of Sochi is to host a congress towards the end of January to pave the way for constitutional reforms in Syria.
Assad and Lavrentiev agreed that the Sochi event’s potential outcomes had to "meet the aspirations of the Syrian people in preserving their homeland and restoring security and stability to its territory,” SANA said.
Assad said the cooperation among Syria and its allies, including Russia, against terrorism was a "decisive factor in foiling the hegemony and division plots put by the West and its tools against Syria and the region.”
U.S. troops sit atop an armored vehicle on a road near the northern Syrian village of Ain Issa on June 3, 2017.