Day After Reports of Israeli Attack: Syria Says It 'Reserves Right to Respond'

Speaking at UN, Syrian FM says Israel helping opposition forces by attacking regime sites, vows Syria will never give up claim to Golan

Jack Khoury
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FILE PHOTO: A general view shows flames and smoke at the Mezzah military airport on the southwestern outskirts of the capital Damascus following an explosion early on January 13, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows flames and smoke at the Mezzah military airport on the southwestern outskirts of the capital Damascus following an explosion early on January 13, 2017. Credit: STRINGER/AFP
Jack Khoury

Syria's foreign minister said on Saturday that victory was within reach in the country and that Damascus hoped de-escalation zones will help reach a cessation of hostilities.

Without directly naming any nation and a day after reports of an Israeli strike in Syria, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly that "Syria reserves the right to respond to any violation by the other party."

Moallem also said that Israel plays a central role in supporting the armed militias of the Syrian opposition and that Israel helps them by attacking targets belonging to the Syrian army. He said Israel's support of Syrian opposition forces is not surprising as both sides share the same interests.

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Walid al-Moallem addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Credit: Craig Ruttle/AP

He also noted that the war in Syria would not cause Damascus to give up its claim to the Golan Heights which Israel now controls.

"The liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra, the lifting of the siege of Deir Ezzor and the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria prove that victory is now within reach," he said.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have been negotiating separately for months in the Kazakh capital Astana to try to reduce violence on the ground by creating de-escalation zones across the country, although those talks do not cover a long-term political solution to the six-year civil war.

Moallem , who praised as constructive the role of Russia and Iran, which back Syrian President Bashar Assad, said Syria was encouraged by the de-escalation zones and hoped they would lead to "an actual cessation of hostilities.

Syria also stresses that these zones are a temporary arrangement that must not violate the territorial unity of Syria," he said.

Earlier this month Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to deploy observers on the edge of a "de-escalation" zone in Syria's Idlib province, which is largely under the control of Islamist insurgents.

The move falls under a broader deal in which they would set up four such zones across Syria.

The de-escalation plan has eased fighting in parts of western Syria between rebel factions and government forces loyal to Assad.

Assad has gained the military upper hand against an array of rebel groups, including some that have received backing from the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies.

Critics have described the de-escalation plan as de facto partitioning of Syria after years of multi-sided conflict. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara deny this and say the zones will be temporary, although they could extend beyond the initial six-month term.

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