Middle East

Only Syrian army troops must be present in Syria’s south: Russian FM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says only Syrian government forces should maintain presence on the Arab country’s southern parts, which is close to Jordan and the occupied territories of Palestine.

The Russian top diplomat made the remarks in a joint press conference with his Mozambican counterpart, Condungua Pacheco, in capital Moscow on Monday, stressing that the pulling out of all non-Syrian forces must be made on “a mutual basis”, and that “this should be a two-way street.”

“The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel,” Lavrov further said.

His comments come as parts of the two Syrian southern provinces, Quneitra and Dara’a, are still under the control of multiple terrorist factions.

According to a new report by the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Syrian troops are making some movements in these areas, suggesting that they are likely planning to conduct a comprehensive counter-terrorism operation to liberate the militant-held areas from the clutches of terror groups.

The UK-based monitor’s report further said that the Syrian air force had reportedly begun dropping leaflets on the areas, including Dara’a, urging the foreign-backed militants to lay down arms and to accept the government rule, a further sign suggesting that Damascus most likely intend to carry out a liberating operation there.

One of the leaflets declares “the arrival of the Syrian Arab army’s soldiers,” according to SOHR, which is sympathetic to foreign-backed militants.

The recapture of Dara’a is highly important because it borders the occupied Golan Heights which Israel has used to treat wounded militants for years. The territory’s return to the Syrian government control would cut the much-reported collaboration between Israel and militants and deal a blow to Tel Aviv’s plans to annex the Golan Heights.

The occupying regime has been using the heights as a launch pad for conducting airstrikes against Syrian military positions. Back on May 10, Israel conducted what it called its most intensive airstrikes on Syria in decades. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, Israel had used 28 warplanes in its Syria strikes and fired 70 missiles. Both Damascus and Moscow said that the Syrian army managed to shoot down over half of the missiles.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and has continued to occupy two-thirds of the strategically-important territory ever since, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

Over the past few years, Israel has frequently attacked military targets in Syria in what is considered an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats against Syrian government forces.

Syrian army advances are also upsetting to US plans in the Arab country where it has deployed about 2,000 troops to carve out a statelet in the country’s north with the help of Kurdish militants.

On Friday, the US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert expressed concerns about the upcoming operation in Dara’a. She also threatened Damascus that Washington would take “firm and appropriate measures” against the Syrian government if it moves to retake the province.

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