Russia demanded on Thursday that any remaining U.S. soldiers in Syria leave the country, denouncing the United States as an occupying force in the war-torn Middle Eastern state.
"As for the presence of American soldiers in Syria, our position is well known. Only the Russian units are present in Syria legitimately at the invitation of the Syrian leadership," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
The U.S. abruptly withdrew forces from northern Syria earlier this month, days before NATO ally Turkey began an offensive against Kurdish militants in the region whom the U.S. had been protecting.
Russia, the main military backer of the Syrian government, reached a deal with Turkey this week to share control over parts of northern Syria that had been targeted in the Turkish offensive, obligating the Kurdish militants to leave such areas.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who had ordered the partial U.S. withdrawal, said in a televised address this week that a "small number of U.S. troops would remain" in Syria, particularly to protect oil facilities.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now