‘Arrogant and illegal’: Russia denounces US troops at Syrian oil wells

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY MAHER MOUNNES Oil well pumps are seen in the Rmeilane oil field in Syria's northerneastern Hasakeh province on July 15, 2015. Rmeilane is one of the biggest oil fields in Syria with 1300 oil wells; currently only 150 wells are active. AFP PHOTO / YOUSSEF KARWASHAN (Photo credit should read YOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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GENEVA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the statement during a news conference with his counterparts from Iran and Turkey, meeting on Tuesday at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United States was “arrogant” in sending troops to protect oil wells in Syria, the Russian foreign minister said. Lavrov noted that it is still unclear whose facilities need to be “protected”.

“The claim that the [US] presence is necessary to protect oil wealth is arrogant. After all, the oil wells are being protected from the Syrians themselves,” Lavrov said.

The US measure is a violation of international law, as the US presence in Syria is “illegal,” the Russian official reiterated, along with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif and Turkish Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The Russian chancellor believes Washington’s claim that the wells need to be protected from Daesh [ISIS/Islamic State] is a pretext for reversing the decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

The claim is even more confusing if we consider that “by March of this year, the US had already announced that the Islamic State [Daesh] had been defeated, crushed,” Lavrov recalled.

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Ministers Meeting

Ministers from Russia, Iran and Turkey met to officially launch the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which will begin its work at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Another relevant item on the agenda was the ceasefire in northeastern Syria, which was negotiated between Russia and Turkey last week in Sochi. The ceasefire expired on Tuesday.

Turkey’s foreign minister said that after the ceasefire had ended, any remaining Kurdish armed groups in the “security zone” near the Syrian-Turkish border would be eliminated.

Conciliating, the Turkish minister noted that he relies on Russian information that the Kurds have withdrawn from the region, in line with Sochi’s agreement. Whether Kurdish forces have fully left the border region yet is not yet known.

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