Iran and Russia have condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to maintain a military presence in Syria to protect oil deposits.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said any exploitation of resources would be illegal.
Press TV reports: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, discussed the issue at a news conference alongside Turkey’s top diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday.
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“Well, it seems that the United States is staying to protect the oil,” Zarif said ironically. “At least President Trump is honest to say what the United States intends to do,” he added to laughter.
Zarif also stressed that the legal presence of both Iran and Russia in Syria will continue until the Syrian government and nation need them.
“Iran and Russia are there on the invitation of the Syrian government, and we intend to stay there as long as the Syrian government and Syrian people want us to be there,” he said.
Lavrov, in turn, said that the return of American forces to Syria, after their transfer to Iraq, was “under the pretext of protecting oil deposits” from the Daesh terror group.
He further reminded the US of the illegality of any exploitation of a sovereign country’s natural resources.
“The essence is that any illegal exploitation of natural resources of a sovereign state without its consent is illegal and that is the view that we share,” he said. “Our US colleagues are aware of our position and we will defend that position.”
Turkey: Syria resources belong to its people
Separately, Fahrettin Altun, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, stressed Syria’s right to its own oil reserves, saying, “Syria’s natural resources belong to Syrians.”
“Oil or other types of revenue should be used for reconstruction efforts including local infrastructure, support for civilians, IDPs (internally displaced persons), and refugees. Just as Syrians should be able to determine their own political future, they should also be allowed to decide how the resources of their own land should be spent,” he tweeted.
On Sunday, Trump announced that US troops would remain in Syria to “secure” oil reserves and even put up “a hell of a fight” against any force that tried to take them.
He also expressed interest in making a deal with ExxonMobil or another energy company to tap Syrian oil reserves.
The following day, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper threatened that American forces deployed around Syrian oil fields will use “military force” against any party that may seek to challenge Washington’s control of those sites, even if it is Syrian government forces or their Russian allies.
The Russian Defense Ministry earlier blasted Washington’s oil field operation as “state-sponsored banditry,” saying the US was stationing its troops in northeastern Syria to pave the way for smugglers to pillage Syrian resources.
The ministry published aerial images on Saturday which it said show crude oil being smuggled out of Syria “under the strong protection of the US.”