As­sad vows to re­take Syria

CityPress - - News -

Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad’s vow to re­take the wartorn coun­try from rebel fight­ers has ruf­fled in­ter­na­tional feath­ers. This af­ter world pow­ers – in­clud­ing the US, Rus­sia, Iran and Saudi Ara­bia – agreed on Thurs­day to a “ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties” in an at­tempt to halt the war that has re­sulted in the death of at least 250 000 peo­ple and driven out mil­lions from the Middle East­ern coun­try.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view with AFP news agency hours be­fore the agree­ment was reached, As­sad de­clared that his armed forces would try to re­take the en­tire coun­try “with­out hes­i­ta­tion”.

He re­port­edly said the in­volve­ment of re­gional play­ers in the con­flict meant “that the so­lu­tion will take a long time and will in­cur a heavy price”. He also re­jected the re­cent ac­cu­sa­tions by the United Na­tions (UN) that his regime was guilty of war crimes, call­ing the claims “politi­cised”.

Yes­ter­day, the US re­acted to As­sad’s ut­ter­ances, la­belling him as delu­sional if he thought he was go­ing to win the Syr­ian war, re­ported Al Jazeera.

Mark Toner, deputy state depart­ment spokesper­son, told re­porters: “He’s de­luded if he thinks that there’s a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the con­flict in Syria. All we’re look­ing at, if the Syr­ian regime con­tin­ues the fight­ing, is more blood­shed, more hard­ship and, frankly, a greater hard­en­ing of po­si­tions on ei­ther side.”

Al­though the agree­ment was reached be­tween world pow­ers, it fell short of be­ing a for­mal cease­fire be­cause it was not signed by the main war­ring par­ties – the op­po­si­tion and govern­ment forces.

Dur­ing the AFP in­ter­view, As­sad had said that he sup­ported ne­go­ti­a­tions to end the vi­o­lence in the coun­try, but added that the fight against what he called “ter­ror­ism” must con­tinue.

“We have fully be­lieved in ne­go­ti­a­tions and in political ac­tion since the be­gin­ning of the cri­sis. How­ever, if we ne­go­ti­ate, it does not mean that we stop fight­ing ter­ror­ism. The two tracks are in­evitable in Syria: first, through ne­go­ti­a­tions, and se­cond through fight­ing ter­ror­ism,” he said.

But Saudi Ara­bia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Adel alJubeir said on Fri­day that As­sad must step aside to make it pos­si­ble to de­feat the Is­lamic State in Syria.

“Un­less and un­til there is a change in Syria, Is­lamic State will not be de­feated in Syria,” he said in Mu­nich, where the UN task force kicked off its meet­ing as part of an ef­fort to de­liver aid in the war-torn ar­eas across Syria.

“When As­sad goes, the fer­tile en­vi­ron­ment in which Is­lamic State op­er­ates in Syria will be re­moved,” Jubeir said.

Mean­while, Rus­sia con­tin­ued its mil­i­tary cam­paign in sup­port of As­sad on Fri­day, just hours af­ter the in­ter­na­tional call for a ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties.

Ac­tivists told Al Jazeera that at least 18 peo­ple were killed on Fri­day in sus­pected Rus­sian air strikes in the north­ern sub­urbs of Homs.

Sep­a­rately, at least three civil­ians were killed and 20 oth­ers were in­jured in sus­pected Rus­sian air strikes in the cap­i­tal Da­m­as­cus, the UK-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights re­ported on Fri­day.

In the city of al-Bab in Aleppo prov­ince, five chil­dren were killed in sus­pected Rus­sian air strikes.

Vy­ach­eslav Matu­zov, a for­mer Rus­sian diplo­mat, told Al Jazeera that Rus­sia was not fu­elling the Syr­ian con­flict, but had rather pre­vented it from spread­ing.

Matu­zov said he un­der­stood that the “ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties” pact meant the only so­lu­tion for the con­flict had to be political.

“I think all groups would un­der­stand there is no so­lu­tion but a political so­lu­tion. Those who do not agree to stop fight­ing will be en­e­mies and will be de­stroyed, as I un­der­stand it,” he said.

– Staff reporter

Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad

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