Syria Says U.N. Must Condemn U.S. Military Actions, Meets with Iran, Russia

Syria has called on the United Nations to condemn the actions of U.S. troops deployed to the Arab country without the consent of the central government in Damascus, whose delegation also discussed the war-torn nation's future with allies Iran and Russia.

Parties to the decade-long conflict in Syria held a series of meetings Wednesday as part of a beleaguered peace process hosted in the Kazakh capital of Nur Sultan.

Representing the Syrian government, Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan sat down with U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and their respective teams to raise protests about the ongoing presence of the U.S. and Turkish militaries across northern and eastern Syria.

"Dr. Sousan stressed the need to raise a loud voice over the violations of the Turkish and American occupation forces against the Syrian people, whether with regard to supporting terrorists and affiliated groups or stealing resources and natural wealth and the potential of the Syrian people, because these violations are in addition to unilateral coercive measures," a Syrian Foreign Ministry readout stated.

Sousan called these activities "the main reason for the suffering of the Syrian people and the difficult conditions in which they are living."

He also met with his counterpart leading the Iranian delegation, Senior Assistant Foreign Minister for Special Political Affairs Ali Asghar Khaji.

"The two sides affirmed their determination to continue working together and coordinate directly to ensure results that serve the interests of the Syrian people and preserve Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity away from any external interference," the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.

A similar understanding was reached following Sousan's talks with the head of the Russian delegation, special presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev.

The teams from Damascus and Moscow discussed "the developments in Syria and the Western policies which seek to the continuation of the war on Syria without regards to the suffering of the Syrian people, in addition to looting the natural resources by the American occupation forces."

They reiterated their calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

"Both sides expressed determination to continue the joint work until the withdrawal of the American forces and other foreign forces that exist illegitimately in Syrian lands," the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.

US, troops, fire, howitzer, eastern, Syria
U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the C/2-156th Infantry, 2nd Platoon Charlie Battery/1-141 FA conduct crew training on a M777 Howitzer at the Conoco gas field in Deir Ezzor, Syria, June 14. U.S. forces in Deir Ezzor have twice come under attack by unidentified militias in the wake of airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia positions along the Syrian and Iraqi border. Specialist Trevor Franklin/Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve/U.S. Army

The meetings came as U.S. forces in eastern Syria came under attack for at least the second time in the wake of a series of airstrikes ordered by President Joe Biden against what the Pentagon described as facilities "utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq."

In statements sent to Newsweek at the time, both Baghdad and Damascus condemned the U.S. strikes, which came in retaliation to an ongoing series of attacks claimed by factions of the pro-Iran "Axis of Resistance" against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Farhad Shami, spokesperson for the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Wednesday that local fighters and personnel of the U.S.-led coalition "foiled hostile drone attacks against al-Omar field," located in eastern Syria.

That same day, U.S.-led coalition spokesperson U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Marotto said in a statement that Iraq's Ain al-Assad Air Base, where U.S. troops are also present, came under attack from approximately 14 rockets, resulting in "minor injuries" for two personnel of undisclosed affiliation.

Iraqi security forces later uncovered in the Al-Baghdadi area of Al-Anbar province what they said was the multiple rocket launcher used in the attack. The official Security Media Cell said rockets that did not land directly in the base caused damage to civilian homes and a mosque, and Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Yahya Rasool condemned the attack.

He said in a statement that the Iraqi government "condemns and denounces this vicious attack" and "affirms the prosecution of violators of the law, and the imposition of security in preparation for organizing fair and just elections."

Echoing the Iraqi state's criticism of the U.S. strikes, Rasool said that the Iraqi government "affirms its refusal to use Iraqi lands and the security of its citizens as an arena for proxy war; This requires restraint and respect for the outcomes of the strategic dialogue."

But Iraqi militias seeking the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq have grown impatient as talks between Washington and Baghdad have yet to produce a timeline for their departure. In Syria too, the Biden administration has yet to announce any plans to pull troops out of the country, as he has for the 20-year long war in Afghanistan.

A U.S.-led coalition was formed in Iraq and Syria to battle the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Iran also fought the self-styled jihadi caliphate via its "Axis of Resistance" network of militias in both countries. Russia intervened directly in Syria as the U.S. began to reduce support for insurgents in favor of fighting ISIS roughly halfway through the country's civil war.

Turkey continues to back opposition forces in northern Syria, and has deployed troops in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last such region in the hands of the rebels, which oppose both the Syrian government and Syrian Democratic Forces. Moscow and Ankara have negotiated ceasefires to quell this front, but violence continues to this day.

In northern Iraq, Turkey has conducted cross-border operations against Kurdish fighters. These incursions have also been condemned by Baghdad.

Syria, government, bombing, Ariha, Idlib
Smoke billows above the Syrian town of Ariha in the rebel-held northwestern Idlib province during reported bombing by pro-government forces on June 28. Millions of Syrian are believed to remain in Idlib, trapped between the Turkish border and Syrian government frontlines against militants operating out of the enclave. OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey also joined the discussions in Nur Sultan, and Pederson described his consultations with representatives from Ankara, Moscow and Tehran as "very good."

The U.N. diplomat had previously spoken with officials from the U.S. as well as Arab and European nations during a trip to Rome. The urgency to establish common ground among international players had grown with an impending deadline for the renewal of the last remaining humanitarian corridor allowing aid to travel into areas outside Syrian government control.

"It is, for the sake of the lives of the Syrian people, extremely important that we have 12 months so that we can continue for the U.N. the humanitarian efforts to support the Syrian people," Pedersen told reporters. "And as you know, we want cross-border operations to continue, and we want cross-line operations to continue. This has also here been a very important message from me."

But Russia argues that such assistance should be channeled through the Syrian government, while Washington has accused Moscow of trying to use the crucial assistance as political leverage in the impending vote on Saturday at the U.N. Security Council.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price outlined the U.S. position during a press briefing Tuesday, asserting that Washington was prepared to extend humanitarian assistance across lines of control among factions in Syria.

"We support all modalities of humanitarian aid in Syria," Price said. "That includes cross-border, cross-border into Syria, and cross-line across the lines of control. And we'd offered to support expanding cross-line aid, and we'll continue to do so in good faith."

But Lavrentiev insisted it was the U.S. and its Western allies that would have to change their perception on the conflict.

"We hope that the so-called collective West will make a decision to adjust its stance on Syria in favor of a greater humanitarian component and socio-economic focus," he said in comments to reporters on Wednesday, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

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