President of Syria says EU should stop ‘giving cover to terrorists’
In an interview published hours after a deal was secured for a break in hostilities in his war-ravaged country on Friday, President Bashar al-Assad has said he intends to ‘retake the whole country’ of Syria.
President Assad, speaking to Agence France-Presse in Damascus on Thursday, said his armed forces would try to retake all of Syria ‘without any hesitation’, but that the involvement of regional players ‘means that the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price’.
Assad said he would continue to fight ‘terrorism’ during any international peace process.
During the interview, the controversial Syrian leader rejected UN allegations of regime war crimes, saying that they lacked evidence and were ‘politicised’.
Addressing the constant flow of refugees from his country, he said it was up to Europe to stop ‘giving cover to terrorists’ so that Syrians could return home.
“I would like to ask every person who left Syria to come back. They would ask ‘why should I come back? Has terrorism stopped?’”, he said.
He urged Europe’s governments, which he said ‘have been a direct cause for the emigration of these people, by giving cover to terrorists in the beginning and through sanctions imposed on Syria,’ to help in making the Syrians return to their country.
In Syria, over 250,000 people have been killed and some 11 million displaced in almost five years of fighting.
Humanitarian aid has been cut off in some Syrian cities and towns for over a year because of fighting.
The UN says about 13.5 million people are in need of aid.
On Thursday night, the US, Russia and other powers said hostilities would be terminated in Syria within a week and humanitarian aid was to be delivered to besieged areas across the country over the next few days.
The real impact of the deal on the ground was questioned by the rebels, since it excludes the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which operates in large swaths of the country’s territory.
Issam al-Reis, a spokesman for the Southern Front, a western-backed opposition alliance fighting close to the Jordanian border, said to the Guardian: “We greet this announcement with tentative optimism.
“However, we are sceptical that Russia will hold to these commitments when its current policy is to indiscriminately bomb all parties in Syria into the dust, in particular civilians and moderate opposition, and with complete impunity, while saying they are bombing terrorists.
“We are waiting for real action, we have now lost faith in words without real action.”
Russia has conducted about 50 airstrikes a day on its positions since the end of November, according to The Southern Front.