Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday after meeting with his Jordanian counterpart that Iran is one of the key powers in the region and that it would be "absolutely unrealistic" to expect it to abandon its interests. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.
Lavrov also said Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria where regime forces are waging a new offensive at their July 16 summit. He said a ceasefire in the region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the U.S. had envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the frontier with Israel.
Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signaled the possible withdrawal of proxies, as there would be no need for foreign groups in Syria, in a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. "That would mean there was no need for the presence of foreign troops in Syria," he said during the call, according to a statement from his office, as reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz. In a similar move, Putin, who met with Bashar Assad in Sochi last month, had suggested that all foreign forces in the country should be withdrawn.
Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and Russia have been reinforcing Assad against a 7-year-old Syrian rebellion. Since 2013, Iran has increased its military presence in Syria and deployed hundreds of its special operation troops, besides militants. It is claimed that Iran has been collecting young people from poor countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and India with the promise of granting citizenship. Iran has helped the Assad regime throughout the war, dispatching thousands of soldiers, mobilizing the Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah group and delivering millions of dollars to the regime, despite its troubled economy hurt by international sanctions. In June 2015, BasNews reported that the Iranian government had funded the Syrian regime to the tune of $6 billion since the beginning of the war.