Talk of political solution to Syria crisis is ‘hollow, meaningless’ – President Assad

Bashar Assad © HO / SANA
President Bashar Assad has accused Syrian rebels’ allies of direct intervention, saying that any talks of a political solution to the four-year crisis in the Arab country would be hollow without recognizing the need to “combat terrorism”

“Any political presentation that does not essentially rely on combating terrorism and ending it is practically ineffective,” Assad said in a speech broadcast by Al Manar TV channel on Sunday. “Countries supporting terrorists have increased their support to them recently and in some cases, they directly intervened to back them.”

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In his first political address in a year, President Assad said that “changes of the West cannot be counted on as long as they follow the double-standards policy. We have not depended but on ourselves since the first day, hoping good intentions from the real friends of the Syrian people,” reported Syria Online.

“How could those who spread the seeds of terrorism combat it,” he added, noting that both the efforts of Russia and China, who stood for the country’s interests in the UN Security Council, as well as the support of Iran were highly appreciated by the nation.

The speech came a day after the president announced an amnesty for deserters, as tens of thousands of young men had fled the army and there have not been enough military forces to combat various militant groups, including Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), who have occupied over 70 percent of the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

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Early spring 2011 saw Syria engulfed by civil war. While the government and Kurdish militia, called peshmerga, have been battling an advancing Islamic State threat, the US and its allies, including Turkey, have been reinforcing and training so-called “moderate terrorists”, operating inside the country.

Over 80,000 troops have died since the beginning of the conflict, and the total number of people killed exceeded 320,000 in June, including over 100,000 civilian lives, as estimated by the SOHR watchdog.

"After years of war, the Syrian people are still resilient, sacrificing for the sake of the homeland, and if they had wanted to give up, they would not have waited all this time," Assad said. “Our choice has been clear since the first day … owning will and conviction of victory.”

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The president added that any political “dialogue that is not based on the fight against terrorism would be hollow and meaningless”, still, the Syrian government would consider all initiatives, “regardless of the intentions,” which could halt the war and bring the peace the nation seeks.

On Friday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem made a speech at the Media Conference Against Terrorism in the Syrian capital, Damascus, saying that “We think that going to Geneva 3 [the next round of an international peace conference dedicated to the future of Syria] is premature unless the Syrians address their issues among themselves,” Reuters reported.

‘Safe zones’ in N. Syria cleared by US & Turkey

Meanwile, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad has urged Turkey to "respect Syrian sovereignty," saying that it uses the threat of Islamic State as an “excuse to attack the Syrian territory” in an interview published in Al Watan newspaper on Sunday, as cited by TASS news agency.

On Saturday, the US and Turkey reportedly made an agreement to free northern Syria of Islamic State militants in order to create “safe zones” in the region. Ankara and Washington have insisted on no intentions of undermining the Syrian regime.

"Syrian refugees in Turkey and in neighboring countries will be able to settle in these safe regions," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference, as cited by Xinhua.

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The plan resulted in Turkish fighter jets and ground forces hitting Islamic State militants both in Syria and Iraq, where Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) camps are located, the same day, Reuters reported. The US military will also be enabled to use the Incirlik air base located in southern Turkey, as a part of the coalition’s operation against the Islamic State.

NATO will be convening Tuesday for an extraordinary meeting at Turkey’s request to discuss further operations against IS and the Kurdish PKK.