Syrian President BASHAR AL-ASSAD greeted by his troops in Ghouta after they liberated the region from terrorists – they are now preparing to take Idlib
Syrian President BASHAR AL-ASSAD greeted by his troops in Ghouta after they liberated the region from terrorists – they are now preparing to take Idlib

IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani says the United States must swiftly end its ‘illegal presence and interference’ in Syria, which, he added, has led to the continuation of insecurity in the war-ravaged country.

The Iranian president made the remarks while addressing a key trilateral summit in Tehran on Friday focusing on Syria in the presence of his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectively.

Rouhani raised six leading points in efforts to put an end to the seven-year crisis in Syria and said the international community is duty-bound to counter the Israeli regime’s measures, particularly the continuation of its occupation of the Syrian land and its increasing moves against the Arab country’s government and nation.

‘In any political negotiations to end the Syrian crisis, Syria’s territorial integrity and independence must be respected,’ the Iranian president stated. He stressed the importance of continuing the fight against terrorism in Syria until the eradication of all terrorist groups in the country, particularly in the northwestern province of Idlib.

He said the international community must pay heed to the issues of the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland and the reconstruction of the war-stricken country, adding: ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to play its constructive role in this regard.’

The Iranian president hailed ‘valuable efforts’ made by Tehran, Ankara and Moscow to solve the Syria conflict and said the three sides need to further continue their cooperation to fully establish peace and stability in Damascus. Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are guarantors of the Astana process, a track of negotiations which have resulted in the return of a succession of militant bastions to the government fold and movement of civilians to safe zones.

The three presidents have previously held summits in the Russian resort city of Sochi in November 2017 and in the Turkish capital Ankara in April. At the request of Damascus, Iran has been offering advisory military assistance to the Syrian army. Tehran says it will continue its anti-terror mission as long as the legitimate government in Damascus wants it to do so.

Russia has also been providing air cover to Syrian army operations. It has also military advisors in the Arab country and runs a number of military bases there. The Tehran summit was held as Syria is preparing for a large-scale operation to liberate Idlib Province, the last major militant stronghold.

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said on Thursday that Idlib ‘will soon be restored to the nation’, pledging to win any possible war there. Syrian prime minister says that the north western province of Idlib will be soon under government control as the army prepares to launch a full-scale liberation operation against remaining terrorists there.

‘Syria has prevailed and will win in any coming war,’ Khamis said.

Speaking to reporters last Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said that efforts are underway to drive terrorists out of Idlib with the least humanitarian cost. Turkey’s President Erdogan said late in August that his country is working with Iran and Russia as the Syrian army is preparing for a decisive battle to drive terrorists out of the Idlib Province.

Elsewhere in his address, Rouhani said joint efforts made by regional and world countries as well as the United Nations have contributed to nearly ending war and bloodshed in Syria, stopping acts of terror in the country and preventing their long-term regional and international consequences. Such measures also prepared the ground for a constructive dialogue among the Syrian people, he added.

He described the Israeli regime, the US and some sponsors of terrorism as the main factors of occupation, terrorism, aggression, foreign intervention and discrimination.

The occupying Tel Aviv regime, whose identity is formed with occupation, aggression and instability, cannot claim to fight terrorism, Rouhani said, adding that the immediate exit of the regime from Syria is a common demand of all the Syrian people.

It is clear that the US government, which has an illegal presence in Syria, carries out acts of aggression and supports the apartheid Israeli regime, cannot be expected to play a ‘positive and constructive’ role in Syria, he noted. ‘The illegal US meddling in Syria is not in conformity with any international regulations and adds to the ongoing problems in that country while posing a serious challenge to the process to achieve sustainable peace in Syria,’ the Iranian president said.

‘In drawing up any plan for the future of Syria, religious and ethnic diversity without any pressure, threat and foreign intervention must be taken into consideration and respected,’ Rouhani pointed out. At the end of the Tehran Tripartite Summit, the Iranian, Turkish and Russian presidents issued a joint statement, reaffirming their determination to continue cooperation until the eradication of terrorist groups in Syria.

In the statement, Rouhani, Putin and Erdogan ‘reaffirmed their determination to continue cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate Daesh/ISIL, al-Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with al-Qaeda or Daesh/ISIL, as they have been designated as terrorists by the UN Security Council’.

‘They underlined that, in the fight against terrorism, separation between the above-mentioned terrorist groups and the armed opposition groups that had joined or would join the ceasefire regime, would be of utmost importance including with respect to preventing civilian casualties,’ it added. The three presidents agreed to hold the next round of their meeting in Russia.

• An Israeli official says Hezbollah has become stronger despite many attacks on the movement’s positions, mainly in Syria where the resistance group is helping the army fight foreign-backed terrorists. ‘If we look backwards to what it was like before, Hezbollah is much stronger,’ Naftali Granot, former deputy of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, said on Thursday.

Granot said Hezbollah’s self-confidence was high due to being on the winning side in the Syrian war along with Iran, the Syrian government and Russia. Hezbollah has ‘got anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles’ and access to a number of ‘GPS precision-guided systems that will help it to convert some heavy rockets into accurate missiles’ despite being repeatedly targeted, he said.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told a conference last Tuesday that Israel had launched more than 200 strikes against various targets inside Syria in the last two years. Last Wednesday, a senior Israeli commander said Hezbollah has been gaining strength in Lebanon and that Israel would not distinguish between the group and the Lebanese army in the next military confrontation.

‘The distinction we made between Hezbollah and Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War was a mistake,’ the unnamed officer in the Northern Command said about the 2006 Israeli war, cited by the Haaretz daily. ‘Hezbollah upgraded its capabilities through its fighting in Syria,’ the officer said. ‘It gained confidence in the fighting,’ he added.

The Israeli minister of intelligence says the Tel Aviv regime has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria in the last two years. The Syrian army has managed to drive the terrorists out of most parts of the country and end Daesh’s territorial rule with help from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

It is now on the verge of fully liberating the southern parts near the occupied Golan, prompting serious concerns in Tel Aviv, which supports the terrorists operating there against Damascus. Syria is now preparing for an operation to liberate Idlib Province, the last major militant stronghold.