TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Senior Iranian figures said on Wednesday that Syria is a top foreign policy priority and American troops should withdraw, as planned by U.S. President Donald Trump.
"Whether they want to or not, the Americans must leave Syria,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said.
"Now 90 percent of Syrian soil is under the control of the government and the rest will soon be freed by the Syrian army,” Velayati added during a meeting with Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem here.
President Hassan Rouhani told Muallem that peace in Syria is a priority. "One of the important regional and foreign policy goals of the Islamic Republic is the stability and complete security of Syria,” he said.
"And establishing normal conditions in Syria and the return of the people of this country to their normal lives.”
Muallem was in Tehran for negotiations before the meeting of presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the Russian Black Sea resort town Sochi on Feb. 14 over Syria.
On Tuesday, Iran warned the occupying regime of Israel of a "firm and appropriate” response if it continued attacking targets in Syria.
In a meeting with Muallem, Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said Zionist attacks violated Syria’s territorial integrity and were unacceptable.
"If these actions continue, we will activate some calculated measures as a deterrent and as a firm and appropriate response to teach a lesson to the criminal and lying rulers of Israel,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
President Rouhani on Wednesday congratulated Syria on its victory in the fight against terrorism.
"We have no doubt your victory in the face of a grand plot in the region led by the U.S. and some other countries is a victory for both the Syrian nation and the entire region,” he told the Syrian foreign minister.
Muallem said Iran has proven to be capable of defeating U.S. plots thanks to its conviction and steadfastness.
"The Islamic Republic’s success in defeating such plots is a great victory for the entire region, including Syria,” he said.
The Iranian president also said bilateral ties are "stronger than ever” but the two sides still need to enhance their cooperation towards eliminating remaining problems which Syria is facing.
Returning complete stability and security to Syria is one of Iran’s important foreign policy objectives, Rouhani said.
Muallem said the Syrian government and people are grateful to Iran for its unstinting assistance in the war on terrorism, and support for Syria’s territorial integrity, and opposition to foreign occupation.
Separately on Wednesday, President Rouhani urged an end to foreign interventions in the region as he renewed Iran’s call for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Rouhani made the remarks in a speech to foreign dignitaries and ambassadors in Tehran on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
"Our slogan is that the presence of foreign troops in the region and their interventions must end. Our slogan is a world free of violence and extremism,” he said.
Rouhani said that Iran’s foreign policy is based on respecting other countries’ rights while countering any foreign intrusion in its affairs. "Based on this, we do not dominate others and do not accept any domination either.”
He said that Iran seeks good ties with friendly countries across the world irrespective of their religions.
"The Iranian nation never intended, neither in the past 40 years nor before that, to launch aggression against their neighbors or other countries, and whenever our neighbors needed help, we offered them assistance … without any expectations or anything in return,” he added.
Rouhani took a swipe at the U.S. for its withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying Washington has failed in this historic test and reneged on its obligations.
"Under chimerical excuses and in defiance of all regulations, the U.S. has created problems for itself, the Iranian nation, regional countries, Iran’s partners as well as …. its own world and regional partners,” he said.
"Despite U.S. infringements and Europe having acted so weakly and inefficiently in implementing its commitments, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to honor its obligations, which means ethics and moral and political obligations are of high significance to Iran,” Rouhani said.
He also criticized Washington for its "illegitimate sanctions” against Tehran and said the U.S. has been doing its utmost to pile up pressure on and frustrate the Iranian nation but stressed that the Iranian people "are more united than ever.”
Rouhani said since the victory of the Islamic Revolution four decades ago, the U.S. has been trying to employ all it has in power against Iran as they lost a great ally and a base in the region, but added that they have failed in all fronts against Iran due to their "miscalculations”.
Nevertheless, Iran will accept a U.S. apology and repentance despite Washington’s history of aggression if it comes up with one, Rouhani said.
"If the U.S. expresses penitence and rectifies its previous mistakes, makes precise calculations, apologizes for its previous interventions in Iran, is ready to accept the grandeur and dignity of the Iranian nation and the great Islamic Revolution and speaks to the Iranian nation respectfully, we will be ready to accept its repentance despite its years of oppression against us,” he said.