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Foreign support for terrorists prolonging Syria crisis: Assad

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo, released by Syria’s official news agency SANA on May 10, 2018 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad answering questions during an interview with the Greek Kathimerini newspaper.

President Bashar al-Assad has blamed foreign intervention for the prolongation of the conflict in Syria, saying otherwise it would take “less than a year” to restore peace to the Arab country.

“I have always said, without any interference, it will take less than a year to regain stability in Syria; I don’t have any doubt about this,” Assad said in an interview with the Greek Kathimerini newspaper published on Thursday.

Assad referred to foreign support for extremist groups operating in the war-torn country as another factor for the persistence of the crisis, however, expressing hope that “we’re going to end this conflict and we’re going to re-unify Syria under the control of the government. When? I cannot answer. I hope it’s going to be soon.”

He lashed out at Western countries, including France, Britain and the US along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey for supporting various terrorist groups, saying they “should be held accountable” for the bloodshed in Syria.

Assad said Syria is fighting terrorists, who are the “army” of the US, Turkey and the Saudi regime, stressing that “any aggressor” and “any army … are all enemies as long as they came to Syria illegally.”

The Syrian president further denounced as “aggression” the ongoing Turkish operation in Syria's Kurdish-controlled region. “This is an occupation. Any single Turkish soldier on Syrian soil represents occupation,” he said.

He said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “was assigned by the West, mainly the United States, to interfere, to make the situation complicated, again because without this interference, the situation would have been resolved much faster.”

 A picture taken on April 29, 2018, during a government guided tour in Damascus' southern al-Qadam neighborhood shows Syrian army sniper taking aim at Daesh positions in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of the capital. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey began the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20 to clear the northern Syrian border of the US-backed Kurdish militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), whom it associates with the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil.

The Turkish military says it has exercised “utmost care” not to harm civilians. The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitor, however, said last week that more than 280 civilians had been killed since the onset of the operation.

The Turkish operation has been launched without permission from the Syrian government. It has also pitted Ankara against Washington, which has armed and supports the Kurdish militants.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Assad rejected the Western allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government near the capital of Damascus as a “farce and a very primitive play” whose only goal is to “attack the Syrian army” after the defeat of terrorists.

The alleged April 7 attack in the militant-held town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region purportedly left dozens dead and drew international condemnation from various countries and international bodies.

Immediately after the reported chemical attack, the United States and its allies rushed to accuse the Syrian government of conducting it.

One week after the incident, the US, Britain and France launched a coordinated missile attack against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs with the purported goal of paralyzing the Syrian government’s capability to produce chemicals.

Assad said, “When the terrorists lost, the US, France, UK, and their other allies, who want to destabilize Syria, they lost one of their main cards, and that’s why they had to attack the Syrian army, just to raise the morale of the terrorists and to prevent the Syrian army from liberating more areas in Syria.”

Syria has rejected the accusations of possessing chemicals. It surrendered its chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations.

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