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Not up to Russia to persuade Iran to leave Syria: Putin

Moscow :Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected US and Israeli calls for Moscow to persuade Iran to pull its military forces out of Syria, saying it is not what Russia can make a decision about.

Putin made the comments in an address to the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi .

Moscow, he said, cannot force Tehran to end its presence in Syria and that a possible withdrawal is an issue between Damascus and Tehran to decide.

The issue, however, can be discussed among Iran, Syria, and the US, with Russia joining the dialog, he added.

Putin also said the countries calling for Iran to leave Syria should provide guarantees that they would not meddle in Syria’s affairs.

With Israel and the US asking Russia to keep Iranian forces at bay, Moscow has stated that Iran’s presence in Syria is at the request of the legitimate government in Damascus.

Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov last week dismissed Tel Aviv’s demand that Iran be forced out of Syria, saying it was none of Israel’s business, but Syria’s sovereign right whether to allow Iranian forces on its soil.

“This is a sovereign country led by a legitimate government. It can agree on cooperation with any other country, including Iran, Russia, Israel,” Bogdanov noted in an interview with the Israeli TV channel i24NEWS released last Thursday.

“That’s Syria’s sovereign right, and it’s not the business of a third party to intervene in these subjects of politics or policy of a sovereign country,” said Bogdanov, who is also a deputy foreign minister.

At the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran has been providing military advisory assistance to the Syrian army in its operations to eliminate terror groups.