Iran officially rejected a Russian call to withdraw Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters from Syria during a press conference on Monday.
"As long as it is needed, [the] terrorism threat is not eliminated. and the Syrian government's help request continues, Iran will remain in Syria," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters.
"Nobody can force Iran to do something against its will," he continued. "Iran is an independent country that pursues its policies according to its own interests."
The Russian Special Envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, called on Friday for the withdrawal of all non-Russian foreign troops in Syria, including American, Turkish, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces, elaborating on a remark made by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier that day. Iran and Hezbollah have had a growing presence in Syria since 2013, when they entered the country's civil war in order to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Although Russia remains a strong ally of both Syria and Iran, its current stance likely reflects its warm ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which vehemently oppose any Iranian or Hezbollah presence in Syria, and have both encouraged Assad to distance himself from the Iranians, though to little avail.