'The territorial integrity of Syria must be fully restored and all foreign forces should withdraw, including Russia if Damascus decides it doesn’t need Moscow’s help anymore, according to President Vladimir Putin.
“All the forces deployed illegitimately inside any sovereign state – in this case Syria – must leave,” Putin said in a joint interview with RT Arabic, UAE-based Sky News Arabia, and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya broadcasters.
This is true for everyone. If Syria’s new legitimate government chooses to say that they have no more need for Russia’s military presence, this will be just as true for Russia.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s stance on the settlement in Syria remains unchanged and was already relayed to its partners Iran, Turkey and the US, the president noted. “Syria must be free from other states’ military presence. And the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic must be completely restored.”
Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from border areas in northeastern Syria, saying it was time to “get out of ridiculous endless wars.”
Unlike the Russian military, which arrived in the country at an invitation of the government in Damascus, US forces have been in Syria illegally since 2016. The Syrian government has repeatedly blasted the American military presence as a violation of its sovereignty.
Putin was also asked about Moscow’s attitude towards NATO's eastward expansion and buildup near Russian borders.
“We are not happy about it… and voiced our concerns,” he replied.
Claims that Russia “has nothing to fear” and that NATO “does not have belligerent intentions” shouldn’t be taken for granted as long as “the North Atlantic Treaty remains in place, in particular, Article Five… which guarantees military support to other members.”'
Read more: Syria must be free of foreign military presence, Russia should also leave if Damascus no longer needs its help – Putin