On May 23, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the Russian news outlet Sputnik that the withdrawal of Iranian forces and Hezbollah from Syria is not on the agenda of the Damascus government. Mekdad also stressed that such decision is a pure Syrian matter.
“This topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria. We cannot let anyone even raise this issue. Those who ask for something like that — and this is definitely not our Russian friends — are considering the possibility of intervention in all parts of Syria, including the support of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the region,” Mekdad said during an interview with Sputnik.
Mekdad statement is likely a response to the statment that was made by the Russian president’s special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev on May 18, in which he said that all “foreign forces” should withdraw from Syria after the defeat of ISIS, including Iran and Hezbollah.
During the interview with Sputnik, Mekdad also doubted the US intention to withdraw its troops from Syria and to replace them with Arab forces and said that the US is only blackmailing its Arab allies to collect money. The Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister also warned that such a move could lead to a military confrontation with the Damascus government.
“The main goal of such statements is to pump the money out of the Arab countries. This will force them to pay more to the US treasury, which may be empty. As well as drawing the Arab states in direct conflict, as far as I can guess — with the Syrian government, and this is a dangerous situation,” Mikdad said.
Syrian pro-government activists believe that the Damascus government will not ask Iran and Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria anytime soon, as it does not believe that the US-led coalition will do the same.