Iran’s foreign ministry insisted Monday that Tehran’s ties with Moscow are “strong” and shrugged off reported Israeli-Russian coordination on a withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria.
“Iran’s ties with Moscow are strong and we are always in touch and consult with each other,” ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran.
On a visit last week to Moscow where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the Jewish state would “not allow the military entrenchment of Iran in Syria”.
“President Putin and I also agreed on a common goal: the withdrawal of foreign forces that arrived in Syria after the outbreak of the civil war. We agreed to establish a joint team to advance this goal, together with other elements,” Netanyahu said.
Russia, which like Iran has sided with the government in the Syrian conflict, has not officially reacted to his statement.
But for Ghasemi, it was just another example of Israeli “psychological” warfare.
Israeli officials “have a habit they cannot quit, and that is lying. (They are) creating a psychological atmosphere to affect Iran’s relations with its neighbours and Russia,” he said.
Thousands of pro-Iranian forces have been deployed to Syria over the course of the war which broke out in 2011, officially to confront “terrorism”.
They include members of the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s ideological army.
But Tehran denies sending regular troops to fight in Syria, saying the Guards are serving as “military advisors” and that the brigades sent are made up of “volunteers” from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“As long as the government of Syria wants us there, we will be there,” Ghasemi said.
Netanyahu has acknowledged that Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes on positions in Syria of Iranian forces and of its Lebanese Shiite militia allies Hezbollah.