In a strongly worded statement, Syria's representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari, accused Turkey of illegally occupying Syrian territory, and said that all foreign forces must exit immediately. His comments came as Iran, Turkey and Russia met in Kazakhstan's capital Astana and slammed US recognition of the Golan Heights as being part of Israel.
In his speech, Jaafari said that Turkey had not complied with a September agreement regarding its presence in Syria's Idlib province, and that it had not removed terrorist groups from there. He claimed that there were numerous extremists in Idlib and that the details agreed at the Sochi and Astana meetings by Turkey, Russia and Iran to remove these terrorists had not been complied with.
"What Turkey's delegation says is not applied on the ground," Jaafari said. "The Sochi agreement clearly stipulated that Turkey's side was committed to the withdrawal of the terrorists groups to behind a buffer of 20 km." Damascus also accused foreign powers of practicing economic terrorism against Syria.
Syria's regime also slammed US, British and French forces for being "illegally" present on Syrian soil, a reference to the international coalition's work in eastern Syria. Jaafari called on them to leave immediately. Then he again turned his attention to Turkey. "Today, the Turkish authorities occupy six thousand sq. km. of Syrian territory in Afrin and other cities, as well as Idlib."
He said that Ankara was building a wall 70 km. long near Manbij to separate part of Turkey-occupied Syria from Aleppo. And it was imposing its own curriculum in schools. "Turkey's occupation is four times larger than Israel's," he said, referring to the Golan. "Turkey's negative attitude to Syria is thus four times worse than Israel."
He then criticized the US for its role in southern Syria at a base called Tanf, where he said there are 50,000 Syrian refugees who are in need of humanitarian aid. The US-led coalition has said that it is ready to support delivery of UN humanitarian aid at the Rukban camp near Tanf.
The Syrian statement seemed geared to pressure Russia and Iran, which are allies of the Syrian regime, to do more about Turkey's role in the country and the frictions in Idlib. Russian media did not carry major coverage from Astana, but Turkey sought to highlight condemnation of US recognition of the Golan.
In a joint statement Iran, Turkey and Russia said that they reaffirmed commitment to the "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic." They therefore "strongly condemned the decision of the US administration to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights."