Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said there can be no political solution for his country’s crisis until “terrorism” is defeated.
In an interview on Wednesday to Russian media, Assad urged all political and armed factions in Syria to unite in the fight against “terrorist groups”, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Nusra Front and “some others”.
“We, the political parties, the government and the armed groups that fought against the government, we must all unite in the name of defeating terrorism,” Assad said.
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He added that he would only give up power if the people – and not the United States – asked him to do so.
Assad said the US, which has been leading a coalition that is carrying out airstrikes on ISIL in Syria and Iraq, refuses to work and coordinate with his government.
Saudi Arabia has reacted to Assad’s comments, saying his departure is a “matter of time”.
“If Assad does no respond to the political soluion, he will be excluded through a military solution,” Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, said. “He will leave sooner or later, because [he is powerless]… But we hope the solution will be political in order to stem bloodshed.”
Assad accused Europe of supporting “terrorism” and providing “protection for terrorists, calling them moderates, (dividing) them into groups, when they are in fact the terrorist groups in Syria”.
He said the refugee crisis hitting the continent was a direct result of the West’s support of “extremists”.
“If you are worried about them [refugees], stop supporting terrorists,” he said.
“How can one be indignant about a drowned child and remain silent about the death of thousands of children, elderly people, women and men killed by terrorists in Syria? These European double standards are unacceptable,” he said.
France, Britain and the United States – which have accused Assad’s regime of crimes against humanity, including gassing civilians – have openly provided non-lethal aid to rebel groups fighting to overthrow the regime.
The Syrian conflict, which began as a peaceful protest in 2011, has led to at least 250,000 deaths, according to the United Nations. More than half of Syria’s prewar population of 22.4 million has been internally displaced or fled abroad.