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US using terrorists as pretext to justify continued military presence in northeast Syria: FM

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)
US soldiers patrol near the village of Tal Alo, in the Yarubiyah district of Syria's northeastern Hasakah province near the M4 highway, on November 18, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad says the United States is using Takfiri terrorist groups, which are wreaking havoc in the northeastern sector of the Arab country, as a pretext to justify the presence of its military forces in the area.

“Even though we (Syrian and Russian forces) have achieved joint victories against terrorism, this does not mean that terrorism is over. The United States supports activities of terrorist groups in order to find a justification for its continued presence in northeastern Syria,” Mekdad said in an exclusive interview with the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Monday.

He added, “The US incitement in northeast Syria is taking place through its support for separatist groups. Turkey also supports terrorists while occupying northwestern Syria.”

The US military has stationed forces and equipment in northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the troops deployment are aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists. Damascus, however, says the deployment is meant to plunder the country's resources.  

Earlier this year, the Syrian ambassador to Russia, Riyad Haddad, said the United States controls all oil fields in the northeastern part of his country.

“Americans are currently present in the northeastern part of the country, controlling all oil fields there and stealing our crude resources. If we manage to liberate the region from the American occupation, we will then revive our economy,” the Arabic service of Russia's Sputnik news agency quoted him as saying in an exclusive interview with Russia's state-owned Rossiya 24 television news network at the time.

The US first confirmed its looting of Syrian oil during a Senate hearing exchange between South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in late July.

On July 30 and during his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo confirmed for the first time that an American oil company would begin work in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The Syrian government strongly condemned the agreement, saying that the deal was struck to plunder the country's natural resources, including oil and gas, under the sponsorship and support of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

The presence of US forces in eastern Syria has particularly irked the civilians, and local residents have on several occasions prevented American military convoys from entering the region.

In his Monday remarks, Mekdad also underscored that Russia's military presence in Syria is necessary because the war on terror has not finished yet.

“The war against terrorism continues in different ways and through various means. Every time we attain our goal of defeating terrorism, they form terrorist groups and armed separatist outfits to pursue their political goals,” he pointed out.

“The Russian military presence is not only beneficial, but also necessary,” the Syrian foreign minister said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mekdad pointed to the Constitutional Committee process that seeks to draft a new constitution for post-conflict Syria, emphasizing that Syrian presidential election, which must be held between April 16 and May 16 according to election law, will not be postponed even if related negotiations do not come into fruition.

The Syrian foreign minister also noted that Damascus is in talks with Moscow to import Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Syrian Ministry of Health reported 145 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total nationwide infections to 10,195.

The ministry also reported 9 new deaths and 49 more recovered cases in the country, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 610 and the total recoveries to 4,786.

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