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Lavrov Denies Reports of Russian Troops' Withdrawal From Syria's Afrin

© Sputnik / Vladimir Pesnya / Go to the mediabankRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - Sputnik International
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a press conference following a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

During the press conference, Lavrov Commented on the situation in Syrian Afrin, denying that Russia had withdrawn troops from the city. Turkish news agency Anadolu previously reported that Russian military had been leaving Afrin.

Turkey has been threatening to launch an operation in Afrin since last week, after the US announced its decision to start training a border protection force composed of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been described by Ankara as a "terrorist army." On January 19, the operation de facto started.

READ MORE: Turkey’s Operation in Syria’s Afrin Does Not Serve Its Interests — US State Dept

Later, Lavrov proceeded with the explanation of how the terrorists attacked the Russian military base in Hmeymim, Syria on December 31.

"There has to be 23-24 observer posts in Turkey, and unfortunately a lack of such posts in Idlib has become the reason for the terrorist attack on the Hmeymim base."

The non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was on the agenda of the UN Security Council meeting on January 19. Commenting on President Donald Trump's accusations against Russia, who blames Moscow for preventing the resolution of the North Korean issue and allegedly supplying Pyongyang with fuel in violation of international sanctions, Sergei Lavrov said:

"If the United States does not file complaints about non-implementation of the sanctions against North Korea, it means that Washington does not have evidence."

The Russian Foreign Minister added that Moscow was ready for dialogue with Washington, despite claims that the US faced growing threats from revisionist powers, including Russia and China, as outlined in the new National Security Strategy of the United States.

"We regret that the US aspires to assert its leadership, issuing such strategies and concepts, naming Russia and China as threats in its defense strategy, instead of opting for a constructive dialogue based on international law," said Lavrov.

The document describes Russia as a country that is "now undermining the international order from within the system by exploiting its benefits while simultaneously undercutting its principles and "rules of the road."

Russian Foreign Minister nonetheless expressed hopes that the United States would eventually realize the need to develop relations with Moscow, including in the security sphere.

"Improving relations between Washington and Moscow depends on President Trump's ability to tackle the russophobe intrigues."

When asked about the US role in the Middle East, Lavrov said that the US decision to withhold UN funding for Palestinians "undermined in a serious way" efforts to meet the needs of refugees.

"This decision… undermines in a serious way the efforts to satisfy the needs of Palestinian refugees in the region," Lavrov said through a translator. "We'll consult all stakeholders and we'll see what we can do."

Earlier this week Washington announced its decision to pay the UN Relief and Works Agency $60 milion, but put on hold the payment of another $65 million it had been expected to offer, with the US Department of State refusing to provide an additional $45 million in food aid it had promised for Palestinians.

The minister noted that Russia was planning meetings with the heads of Israel and Palestine, offering Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu to meet on Russian soil.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Iran nuclear deal could not survive if any side withdrew from the agreement.

"This agreement cannot be implemented if one of the participants unilaterally steps out of it. It will fall apart, there will be no deal then," Lavrov told reporters.

He elaborated that the deal was not dead yet, and Russia would put in much effort to preserve it. Furthermore, Lavrov said that Moscow had received information, according to which, the United States would try to convince the EU to change its stance on the deal. Meanwhile, he added that "Washington's demands related to the nuclear deal with Iran would be inadmissible for Tehran," and noted that renegotiating the deal has no prospects.

Last week US President Donald Trump said that if the "disastrous flaws" of the 2015 multilateral accord to curb Iran's nuclear program were not fixed within 120 days, then Washington would step out.

Russia believes that there is no need to blame Iran for everything that happens in the Middle East, and considers it impossible to isolate Tehran from any issues related to the region.

As for the Syrian talks, Lavrov said that during the last tour of negotiations, the opposition's delegation started demanding regime change even before the talks started. The minister added that he hoped this will not happen during the next round of negotiations in Vienna.

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