Assad vows to retake Syria
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