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25 Jan, 2024 15:13

Counting on US protection ‘the wrong bet’ – Lavrov

Syrian Kurds should understand that Washington’s forces are in the country “illegally,” the Russian foreign minister has said 
Counting on US protection ‘the wrong bet’ – Lavrov

Any groups in Syria that are looking to the US for protection will eventually understand that they have misplaced their confidence, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.   

Speaking at a press conference in New York on Wednesday, where he was attending a UN meeting on Ukraine and the Middle East, Lavrov responded to reports that Washington is considering a complete withdrawal of its troops from Syria, which has been in the throes of a civil war since 2011. The Pentagon has denied any such plans.  

The US – which has consistently backed opposition forces fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government – first intervened in the conflict in 2014, declaring that one of its aims was to defeat the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group.  

Commenting on Wednesday, Lavrov recalled that the US had previously announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria under then-President Donald Trump back in 2019. Washington later backtracked and continued to maintain a military presence illegally, despite a backlash at home and abroad.  

Shortly after Trump’s announcement, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprised mainly of local Kurds, “started to ask the Russian military to help them to establish contacts with Damascus,” Lavrov said.  

However, when the US “changed its mind,” these groups soon retracted their requests and “immediately returned under the American wing,” the minister added.   

The point here is not whether [US troops] will withdraw or not. They are there illegally. Political forces among Syrian Kurds who are counting on the ‘American umbrella’ and US patronage, are making a morally and politically wrong bet.

The US currently has about 900 troops in Syria. Washington insists their main goals are to contain IS, reduce violence, and address the humanitarian crisis in the region. The government in Damascus insists that the US presence is “illegal,” and has repeatedly accused Washington of stealing oil in the northeastern part of the country.