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US military presence in Syria resembles occupation: Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces ride in the back of a truck passing damaged buildings in Raqqah, Syria, on October 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Russia says the US military presence in Syria looks like an occupation as it runs afoul of international law and lacks authorization from the Damascus government.

"From the standpoint of international law, the United States of America stay illegally in Syria. They have no appropriate official permission or invitation from Damascus,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"They are there against the will of the legitimate government of Syria, without legal basis, so in fact their behavior closely resembles that of an occupation,” she added.

On November 13, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US would not walk away from Syria until UN-brokered peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva made progress.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

“The enemy hasn’t declared that they’re done with the area yet, so we’ll keep fighting as long as they want to fight,” he said, claiming that Washington was conducting military operations in Syria under a UN mandate.

Syria reacted angrily to Mattis’ remarks, condemning the US military presence in the country as “an act of aggression.” 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also denounced the American intervention as illegal.

"It is quite interesting how the US justifies its presence there, which is illegitimate because it does not rely either on the decision of the UN Security Council or on the invitation of the legitimate government,” he said.

Russia has been conducting air raids against Daesh and other terrorist groups inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015.

On the contrary, the US and its allies back militants fighting to topple the Syrian government. American warplanes have been bombing Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate, which has seriously damaged the country's infrastructure. 

The airstrikes have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

Russian jets hit Daesh targets in Syria

Separately on Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its bombers had targeted positions held by Daesh militants in eastern Syria.

The photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry on March 16, 2016 shows a Russian Su-25 jet taking off at Hmeimim air base in Syria. (Via AP)

"On November 23, 2017, Tu-22M3 long-haul bombers delivered a massive airstrike on Daesh terrorists’ targets in the province of Dayr al-Zawr," the ministry said.

The Russian warplanes hit all the designated targets, it added.

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