Iran, Russia take aim at US military presence near Syrian oilfields

Iran and Russia on Tuesday (29 October) condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision to maintain a military presence near oil fields in northeastern Syria, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying any exploitation of resources would be illegal.

Trump’s suggestion on Sunday that Exxon Mobil Corp or another US oil company operate Syrian oil fields drew rebukes from legal and energy experts.

The United States will strengthen its military presence in Syria with “mechanized forces” to prevent Islamic State fighters seizing oil fields and revenue, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addressed the issue at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday evening after meeting with his counterparts, Russia’s Lavrov and Turkey’s Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

“Well it seems that the United States is staying to protect the oil. And at least President Trump is honest to say what the United States intends to do,” Zarif said to laughter.

Lavrov said that the return of US forces to Syria, after their transfer to Iraq, was “under the pretext of protecting oil deposits from the Islamic State.”

“The essence is that any illegal exploitation of natural resources of a sovereign state without its consent is illegal and that is the view that we share,” he said.

Fahrettin Altun, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s communications director, said in a tweet later on Tuesday: “Syria’s natural resources belong to Syrians”.

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