DAMASCUS (Sputnik) – Syria will not allow either militants in the province of Idlib or the US base in At Tanf, used by Washington to train fighters against Daesh*, to remain on the country’s territory, Hilal Hilal, the assistant regional secretary of the Arab Socialist Baath Party, told reporters on Thursday.
“It is absolutely not our fault that [militants] are here. Why should we tolerate their presence on our soil now? They can leave our territory and go to any other country … These groups have two options: either to leave Syrian soil or face the power of the Syrian Arab army,” Hilal said.
He also pointed out that Damascus would continue to demand the withdrawal of US troops from the At Tanf base, which, according to media reports, might retain a certain number of soldiers despite Washington’s announced intent to withdraw its forces from the Arab Republic.
“Syria has a right to defend any part of the country from foreign occupation. Syrian President Bashar Assad has always said this. We believe that any foreign base created on Syrian soil without the consent of the president and the government of Syria represents an occupation and aggressive forces. Of course, we will fight the existence of such bases on our territory. I am speaking not only about the military bases, but also about people involved in these activities, armed formations and even states,” Hilal said.
A week ago, AFP reported, citing an anonymous source, that the US had started the withdrawal of non-essential equipment from Syria, with military personnel remaining deployed in the country.
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The withdrawal put into question the fate of the US-backed Syrian forces in Syria. Trump, however, stressed that he wanted to protect US-allied Kurds while slowly pulling the troops out of the country, with White House National Security Adviser John Bolton calling the protection of Kurdish militia by Ankara a condition for the US withdrawal.
This triggered discontent of the Turkish side: Edogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin called it a “fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian branch PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party]/YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units]”. Ankara considers the YPG to be affiliated with the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey.