A senior advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution said Iran’s ties with Russia and Syria will not be affected by Moscow’s recent move to pull out part of its forces from Syria, which has been mired in civil war for five years.
“The partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria will not fundamentally affect cooperation among Russia, Syria, Hezbollah and Iran,” Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted as saying by ISNA on Wednesday.
Velayati’s remarks followed an announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that most Russian forces would be withdrawn from Syria.
Iran and Russia are supporting Assad’s army against groups of armed insurgents who receive backing from some regional and western states and seek to oust Assad.
Moscow began direct intervention in the Arab country in September mainly through airstrikes.
“Russians continue their cooperation in Syria, although there may be some alterations in their air support. They will re-intervene wherever necessary to play their critical role in the fight against terrorism,” Velayati said.
The advisor noted that he has heard high-level Russian officials, including President Putin, saying the decision for the pullout was in line with the Geneva truce agreement.
“Russia and Iran have the upper-hand in Syria,” he said.The ceasefire was negotiated between Washington and Moscow on behalf of the warring sides and took effect late last month.
Assad’s government and the opposition are holding UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva as part of a diplomatic push meant to ultimately lead to the establishment of a transitional government followed by drafting a new constitution and holding general elections in two years.
In an interview with state television, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council said Iran had expected Russia’s withdrawal.
“Russia’s pullout from Syria was coordinated and based on advance planning and was not unexpected at all,” Ali Shamkhani said.
He said the fight against terrorism in Syria is not yet over, adding, “Iranian and Russian military advisors would continue to help sustain advances by the Syrian Army in areas where terrorist groups still pose a threat to the security of people and the region,” he said.
Early this month, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council named Iran-allied Hezbollah a terrorist organization, accusing the Lebanon-based group of committing “hostile acts” against Persian Gulf Arab states. Shamkhani condemned the (P)GCC’s move, saying, “Hezbollah has played a major role in defeating terrorist groups in Syria and protecting the security of Lebanon.
“Its widespread popularity in the Muslim world and Arab countries has angered the Zionist regime and its allies.”