Putin Doesn’t Buy! No Proof On the Ground That Americans Are Pulling Out of Syria Any Time Soon!
Vladimir Putin: Chicago Tribune, please.
— Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria. He also announced that, in his opinion, the United States defeated ISIS in Syria. What is your position with respect to his statements both on the withdrawal of American troops from Syria and also with his statement regarding the defeat of ISIS by the United States?
Secondly, do you have concerns that the American troops will remain in some form? There's been much discussion, for example, around the presence, potentially, of contractors under the jurisdiction of the United States in Syria. This way, the United States might want to take part militarily but in a more discreet way.
— Concerning the defeat of ISIS. I agree with the president of the United States in general. I've said repeatedly, we've reached а considerable success fighting terrorism in this country. We've delivered some serious strikes on ISIS in Syria. There's a threat that the gangs will pass to the neighboring regions — to Afghanistan and other countries, I mean the countries they came from, so they actually can return there. This is a huge threat to all of us — to Russia, the United States, Europe, to the states in Asia and Central Asia. We are perfectly aware of this. In this regard, Donald is right and I agree with him.
Concerning the withdrawal of the American troops — I don't know what it is. The United States is present in Afghanistan for, like, 17 years and each year they say they're going to withdraw the troops. But they are still there.
The third point is — so far, we haven't seen any signs the United States is withdrawing its troops. But I admit it's quite possible. Moreover, we are going the path of political control over the situation. Currently, we have the issue of creation of a constitutional committee on the agenda. By the way, when we had a meeting in Istanbul, between Russia, Turkey, France, and Germany, we agreed we would do our best to create a constitutional committee. On its part, Russia has done everything to make it possible. It may seem strange but we've come to an utter agreement on the list with President Assad. He allocated 50 people. He took part in allocating 50 people from Syria's civil society. Despite the fact that he didn't like it all but he agreed on this nevertheless. Turkey on behalf of the opposition agreed as well. Iran agreed. We submitted the list to the UN.
Lavrov told me just yesterday. It turned out that at the instigation of our partners from Germany, France, and the USA, the UN representatives, Mr. de Mistura for instance, have taken a wait-and-see position. I don't know what's going on there. Anyway, this work, at least I want to believe this, is in the closing stages. Maybe this year or at least the next one, the list will be approved and the next step of the settlement will begin. I mean the political settlement. Is it necessary that the American troops are present there? I don't think it is. Lest we forget the presence of your troops isn't legitimate. It was never approved by the decision of the Security Council of the UN. A military contingent can be there only by the decision of the Security Council or by invitation of the legitimate government of Syria. Our troops are deployed there on the invitation of the government. The United States has neither of these. If the US decided to withdraw the troops then it's the right decision.
But there's another important component of the process. Despite all the contradictions, between our military, special forces, and foreign ministries' specialists, there's a constructive dialog on solving pressing problems of fighting terrorism in Syria. In general, we are satisfied with the way our joint work is going on.