As­sad vows to ‘lib­er­ate’ ev­ery inch of Syria from mil­i­tants

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

DA­M­AS­CUS, Syria—The Syr­ian pres­i­dent vowed on Tues­day to “lib­er­ate” ev­ery inch of the coun­try in the same way his troops ear­lier this year re­cap­tured the his­toric town of Palmyra from the Is­lamic State group.

Bashar As­sad’s speech in front of the newly-elected par­lia­ment came as govern­ment forces pushed ahead in their of­fen­sive in the north­ern prov­ince of Raqqa, which is home to the de facto cap­i­tal of IS and the seat of its self-pro­claimed caliphate. Govern­ment forces have also al­most en­cir­cled rebel-held neigh­bor­hoods in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

The sit­u­a­tion on the ground is much bet­ter than it was months ago, As­sad claimed, call­ing on the peo­ple “not to worry be­cause the con­di­tions are good.”

Ear­lier, leg­is­la­tors had stood up and chanted, “Our soul, our blood we sac­ri­fice for you, Bashar” as As­sad walked into the par­lia­ment’s main hall in cen­tral Da­m­as­cus.

The scales of war in Syria have tipped in As­sad’s fa­vor since Rus­sia be­gan an aerial cam­paign last Septem­ber, help­ing the govern­ment troops cap­ture wide ar­eas from in­sur­gents. The big­gest vic­tory came in March, when Syr­ian forces evicted the Is­lamic State group from Palmyra.

“The way we lib­er­ated Palmyra and be­fore that many ar­eas, we will lib­er­ate ev­ery last bit of Syria from their hands. We have no choice but to be victorious,” As­sad said to a fu­ri­ous ap­plause from the law­mak­ers.

“Our war on ter­ror­ism will con­tinue not be­cause we like war. They im­posed the war on us,” As­sad added, re­it­er­at­ing his sta­ple blam­ing of for­eign coun­tries for Syria’s fiveyear cri­sis. “The shed­ding of blood will not end un­til we up­root ter­ror­ism, wher­ever it is.”

The speech was As­sad’s first be­fore the newly elected cham­ber and his first pub­lic re­marks since Jan­uary. He also thanked China for us­ing its veto power at the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil months af­ter the cri­sis be­gan to pre­vent the im­po­si­tion of sanctions on Syria.

He also thanks Rus­sia, Iran and Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah group — three key al­lies that have played a crit­i­cal role in turning the bal­ance of power in As­sad’s fa­vor.

The Syr­ian pres­i­dent blamed the op­po­si­tion for the fail­ure of three rounds of in­di­rect peace talks in Geneva this year, blast­ing his op­po­nents as “traitors for for­eign coun­tries who have be­come mats for the feet of their masters.”

The op­po­si­tion de­mands that As­sad play no part in any tran­si­tional or fu­ture po­lit­i­cal estab­lish­ment in Syria. In Tues­day’s speech, he re­jected any changes in the con­sti­tu­tion that could lead to the par­ti­tion­ing of Syria on a sec­tar­ian ba­sis.—AP

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