Assad: Russian, Iranian support essential for regime
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULFeb 22, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Feb 22, 2016 12:00 am
The Russian aerial campaign and Iranian support have been essential in the advancement of the Syrian regime forces, Bashar Assad said in an exclusive interview with the Spanish daily El Pais on Sunday.
When asked about whether forces loyal to the regime could have prevailed in making advancements without the backing of foreign players, Assad said the Russian and Iranian support has, "definitely been essential." Assad also said that his regime "definitely needs the help."
Addressing the civilian casualties reportedly caused by the Russian aerial campaign, Assad denied reports, saying that "there is no proof" in this respect. He claimed that he is saddened by the number of casualties. "But this is war," he added.
Regarding the reports in international media outlets that Russian airstrikes mostly target civilians, Assad denied these reports as well, saying: "No, no. We don't have any evidence that the Russians have attacked any civilian targets. They are very precise in [choosing] their targets and they always attack, every day, the bases or locations of the terrorists."
Moreover, Assad blamed the U.S. for attacks on civilians and the ensuing casualties. "Actually, it's the Americans who did this, who killed many civilians in the northeastern part of Syria, not the Russians," he contended.
Commenting on the possible cessation of hostilities in the country with the consent of both parties, Assad maintained a poised stance. "We have announced that we are ready but it's not only about making an announcement; maybe the other party will announce the same," he said.
Assad, however, asserted that his forces, along with foreign support, will continue to strike Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam, which are among the moderate opposition groups.
Claiming that those who have fled the country can return without any concern, Assad said: "The refugees can come back without any action being taken against them by the government."
Nearly 5 million Syrians have fled the country so far since the regime's offensive began against its own people.