In a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the presence of foreign forces in Syria, referring to US and Turkish troops occupying areas of the country.
Turkey occupies areas along Syria’s northern border and backs opposition fighters in the Idlib province, which is primarily controlled by al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Ankara does not openly support HTS, but Turkish-backed groups have fought alongside the al-Qaeda affiliate, and there have been reports of Turkey coordinating with HTS.
There are approximately 900 US troops occupying northeast Syria. On paper, the US forces are there to back the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS. In reality, the US occupation is a part of Washington’s economic warfare against Syria. The region where US troops are located is where most of Syria’s oil fields are located, and the US presence keeps the vital resource out of the hands of the Syrian government.
While Russia has troops in Syria, they are in the country at the invitation of Damascus. Putin said the presence of other foreign troops violates international law and is preventing Syria from rebuilding after 10 years of war.
“This clearly violates international law and doesn’t allow you to make maximum efforts to consolidate the country,” Putin said. “Only a consolidation of all forces in Syria will allow the country to get on its feet and start steady development, moving forward.”
Washington’s sanctions regime against Syria specifically targets the energy and construction sectors to prevent the country from rebuilding. The economic warfare and the years of war have had a devastating impact on the people of Syria. According to the UN, the number of Syrians that are close to starvation is at 12.4 million, or 60 percent of the population.