Iran will spare no efforts to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity

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President BASHAR AL-ASSAD greets victorious Syrian troops in Eastern Ghouta
President BASHAR AL-ASSAD greets victorious Syrian troops in Eastern Ghouta

IRAN’S Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami has warned of extra-regional countries’ plots to sow discord in Syria, vowing the Islamic Republic’s full support for the war-ravaged country in a bid to preserve its territorial integrity and improve its stability.

‘Iran will spare no effort to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity, because security in the country will help (improve) regional stability’ Hatami said in a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, in Damascus on Sunday.

He added that the eradication of terrorism in Syria would restore full security to the region and strip foreign powers of any pretext they might have for intervention in the country. Heading a high-ranking delegation, the Iranian defence minister arrived in Damascus earlier on Sunday to discuss a number of important issues, including the latest regional developments, the fight against terrorism, the strengthening of the resistance axis and the study of strategies for expansion of defence and military cooperation.

Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami is in Syria for a two-day visit to discuss ways of expanding defence and military cooperation among other things. Iran and Syria enjoy strategic relations. At the request of Damascus, Iran has been providing military advisory assistance to the Syrian government forces who are fighting an all-out foreign-sponsored militancy.

Iran’s military presence in Syria has been a thorn in the side of Israel. On April 9, an Israeli airstrike against the T-4 airbase in Syria’s Homs Province killed more than a dozen people, including seven Iranian military advisers.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi strongly condemned the Israeli regime’s attack on the air base in Homs, saying it was a blatant violation of international law, which would strengthen terrorists.

Iran says the Israeli regime’s attack on an air base in Syria was a blatant violation of international law. ‘The Israeli regime’s aggression against Syria is a breach of this country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and runs counter to all international regulations and principles,’ Qassemi said.

Tel Aviv wants Syria to ask Iranian advisers to leave the country and dismantle what it claims to be Iranian military bases. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in May threatened that the regime will hit Iranian targets ‘anywhere in Syria,’ where Iranian military advisors have been providing effective assistance to the national army in its battles against Tel Aviv-backed terror groups.

Angered by successful Iranian anti-terrorism efforts in Syria, Netanyahu threatened that the regime will hit Iranian targets ‘anywhere in Syria.’ ‘We will continue to act against Tehran’s intention to establish a military presence in Syria across from us, not just across from the Golan Heights, but anywhere in Syria,’ he said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said in June that Iran has no military presence or bases in his country, but Iranian military advisors were there to help Damascus fight terrorist groups. The Syrian defence minister, for his part, said Tehran and Damascus have strong relations, emphasising that Syria would allow no country to harm its ties with Iran.

Ayyoub added that Syria would never be able to defeat terrorism without Iran’s cooperation and noted that Tehran and Damascus were sharing their experience on different issues. He said major achievements made by the Syrian forces in their battle against terrorism have caused concern among enemies in the region, particularly the US and the Israeli regime.

• A senior US official has paid a visit to northern Syria without the permission of Damascus, saying Washington will keep troops in the territories held by Kurdish militants. State Department representative William Roebuck travelled on Saturday to the cities of Manbij and Ayn al-Arab locally known as Kobani, both situated in Aleppo Province, as well as the town of Shaddadah in Hasakah Governorate. He was later due to visit Dayr al-Zawr Province which is held by US-backed Kurdish militants.

‘We are prepared to stay here, as the president (Donald Trump) has made clear,’ he said after meeting with militants. With the Syrian government focused on crushing foreign-backed militants and Takfiri terrorists, Kurdish militants carved out a de facto autonomous region in the country’s north and northeast which was later occupied by US troops.

About 2,000 US troops and a lesser number of troops from France and other allies have been deployed to northeast Syria in territories under the control of Kurdish militants, raising fears that they might be aiming to partition the country.

• The Pentagon has finally admitted that there are far more US troops in Syria than it had previously announced. With the Syrian army having retaken much of the country, the Kurds sent their representatives early this month to Damascus to discuss the fate of territory under the control of US-backed militants.

The government now controls more than two-thirds of Syria and is determined to reassert its authority over Kurdish-held territory, which forms the lion’s share of the rest. Roebuck’s trip comes in the wake of further planned meetings between the Kurds and the Syrian government which the US has been seeking to topple with the help of its allies and their proxies.

• Washington is set to announce that it will no longer recognise millions of Palestinian refugees’ ‘right of return’ to the Israel occupied territories, Israeli media reports. According to Israel’s Hadashot News on Saturday, the administration of US President Donald Trump will make the announcement over the next few days, in which it will claim that only around one million Palestinians are eligible for refugee status.

The claim will contradict UN statistics which classify over five million Palestinians as refugees. Earlier this month, the American magazine Foreign Policy obtained emails written by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, to senior US officials in which he pressured Jordan to remove the refugee status of millions of Palestinians in a bid to disrupt UNRWA’s work.

Washington has on multiple occasions voiced opposition over treating the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees themselves. In January, the US government announced that it would withhold $65 million of a $125 million aid installment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Last Friday, the United States also cancelled over $200 million in funds for the Palestinian Authority. The United States has cancelled over $200 million in funds for the Palestinian Authority, leading Palestinian officials to denounce the move as ‘blackmail.’

Also on Friday, the UNRWA head suggested that the US had slashed the agency’s budget to punish the Palestinians for their criticism of Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s ‘capital.’

‘I can say with a great degree of confidence that the decision was not related to UNRWA’s performance because in November I had received very constructive and openly positive feedback on those issues,’ Pierre Kraehenbuehl said. ‘A few weeks later, tensions increased around the question of Jerusalem (al-Quds),’ he added. ‘It appears that the humanitarian funding to UNRWA got caught up in the deep polarisation around that question.’

US-Palestine ties deteriorated last December, when Trump declared Jerusalem al-Quds as the ‘capital’ of Israel and announced plans to transfer the embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.