Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem: Damascus will fight ‘occupying’ US, French and Turkish forces

UN General Assembly 2018: Regime calls on return of refugees to be subject to Assad law

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al-Moualem addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Powered by automated translation

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallem on Saturday lashed out at United States policy in Syria and accused the anti-ISIS coalition of “committing mass killings” and “supporting terrorism”.

Mr Al Muallem spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, where he told the international gathering that the US, French and Turkish military presence in Syria was illegitimate and would be dealt with accordingly.

“We are committed to continuing the holy battle until we clear the entire territory of Syria of terrorist groups and illegal foreign presence," he said.

The minister also denounced the anti-ISIS coalition, saying it "has fought everything except terrorism”, and accusing it of destroying Raqqa and committing massacres against civilians.

The US-led coalition defeated ISIS in its de-facto capital Raqqa last October, dealing a military blow to the group after three years of controlling the Syrian city.


Read more:

UN General Assembly 2018 schedule

Beyond the Headlines podcast: At least on Iran, Trump has clear message

The most memorable moments of the UN General Assembly


Mr Al Muallem also touched on the millions of displaced Syrians, inviting refugees to return before reminding them that they would have to abide by the laws in place under President Bashar Al Assad's regime.

“What applies to Syrians living inside the country, will apply to those coming back,” he warned.

The foreign minister expressed eagerness to start reconstruction in the war-torn country, but said the priority in such efforts will be “for friends of Syria and not those states that support terrorism”.

“They are neither welcome nor wanted” said Mr Al Muallem.

While his tone was optimistic when speaking about the Idlib agreement - which will reopen two strategic highways running through the province - he went on to accuse Turkey of supporting terrorism.

Mr Al Muallem said he hoped the Russian-Turkish deal “can purge Al Nusra and other terrorists” in the area.

In a succession of criticisms, Mr Al Muallem also linked terrorism in eastern Syria to the US presence. The minister suggested the terrorist attack on Sweida in July was carried out by ISIS fighters from Al Tanf, where US presence facilitated the attack. He did not elaborate on the alleged correlation between the two.

The US has around 2,000 troops in Syria and has clashed with both Russian and Syrian troops and Iranian proxies near the Al Tanf air base.

Last week, US national security adviser John Bolton said American troops would stay in Syria until Iran leaves, in a bid to counter Tehran’s regional influence.

Politically, the Syrian foreign minister remained defiant. Mr Al Muallem said a committee tasked with drafting a new constitution would not accept outside dictates.

He said anything seen as intervention in Syria's internal affairs would be rejected.

The comment came a few days after the US and six other nations called for the United Nations to convene a committee to start drafting a new constitution for Syria and to promote a political transition in the war-ravaged country.

"Any conditions or pre-conclusions on the work of the committee will not be accepted," he said.

The UN-led efforts to bring Syria's warring factions together to draft a new constitution, under which elections would be held, has been stalled for years.