Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a press conference in Damascus, Syria, on June 2, 2018. Walid al-Moallem said on Saturday that the U.S. should withdraw from the al-Tanf base in southeastern Syria ahead of any agreement reached in the south of the country. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Saturday that the U.S. should withdraw from the al-Tanf base in southeastern Syria ahead of any agreement reached in the south of the country.
"Don't believe the remarks about a deal in southern Syria unless the U.S. withdraws from al-Tanf," al-Moallem said.
"The U.S. presence in Syria is illegitimate and they should withdraw from al-Tanf and any other area in Syria," he noted.
The remarks by al-Moallem came in response to the recent reports of a Russian-backed deal in southern Syria about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed forces from areas close to the Syrian border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, the minister denied what Israel claims the involvement of Iranian forces in Syria, saying Iran has only sent military advisors upon the request of the Syrian government.
He also expressed gratitude for Iran's help against foreign-backed terrorism in Syria since the beginning of the crisis.
A day earlier, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said he believed an agreement has been reached on the withdrawal of Iranian forces from the border between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
"As I understand it, an agreement was reached," Nebenzya told reporters at the UN.
"I cannot answer if it is being realized, but as far as I understand, the parties involved in reaching an agreement are satisfied with what they have achieved," he added.
Israel was said to be a part of the agreement with Russia.
The situation in southern Syria has grabbed attention recently as the Syrian army is preparing for a wide-scale offensive to dislodge rebels from the southern provinces of Qunaitera and Daraa amid talks of a reconciliation agreement.
Israel has for long demanded the pullout of Iranian forces from Syria's southern borders, and launched multiple airstrikes on Syrian military positions on the pretext that Iranian fighters are running them.
The Syrian government hopes to restore military presence in Daraa and Qunaitera after the evacuation of rebels, in order to control all border points between Daraa and Jordan as well as areas between Quanitera and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, while activating the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Syria and Israel.