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Assad Says He’s Worried About 'Terrorists' and Foreign Meddling If There's a Truce in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad railed against foreign support for rebel groups, but said he would be willing to agree to a ceasefire on certain conditions.
Photo by Alexey Druzhinyn/ Ria Novosti/EPA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he's ready for a ceasefire — but only if "terrorists" don't use it to their advantage, and on the condition that countries stop supporting the rebel groups that have been trying for five years to topple his regime.

"We have said that we are ready to stop military operations, but the issue relates to more important factors… such as preventing terrorists from using it to improve their positions," Assad told Spanish newspaper El Pais in an interview.


He also said any truce must ensure that "other countries, especially Turkey, are prevented from sending more terrorists and weapons, or any kind of logistical support."

Speaking from Jordan on Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he had discussed a truce proposal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russia intervened in Syria last September and has since turned the tide of the conflict in favor of Assad.

"There is a stark choice for everybody here," Kerry said according to the Associated Press. "Will every single party agree automatically? Not necessarily."

While some of Syria's opposition groups have said they might be willing to agree to a ceasefire if they receive certain guarantees from Assad and Russia, including promises to lift sieges and allow aid deliveries, others have said they have no plans to lay down their arms.

Related: Syrian Rebels Say a Ceasefire Is 'Not Realistic, Objective, or Logical'

Riad Hijab, a coordinator of Syria's principal opposition bloc said earlier this month that a cessation of hostilities was "not realistic, objective, or logical." Faylaq al-Sham, a coalition of seven northern insurgency groups, said they would not drop their weapons until Assad was removed.

Assad, whose forces are backed by Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah in addition to Russia, blamed foreign powers for supporting the rebels and prolonging the war.

"More than 80 countries supported those terrorists in different ways, some of them directly with money, with logistical support, with armaments, with recruitments," Assad told El Pais. "Some other countries supported them politically, in different international forums."


Asked about the possibility of Turkey and Saudi Arabia sending ground forces into Syria, Assad said, "We're going to deal with them like we deal with the terrorists. We're going to defend our country. This is aggression."

World powers agreed in Munich on February 12 to a cessation of hostilities that would let humanitarian aid be delivered in Syria. The ceasefire was scheduled to start a week later, but did not take effect. Syrian army offensives have continued unabated across the country, backed by Russian airstrikes.

Related: Supposed Syrian Ceasefire Viewed Skeptically by War-Weary Aid Workers

Assad told El Pais his troops are now close to fully controlling the northern city of Aleppo and are advancing toward the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa province.

Assad also said in the interview that once he has complete control of the country, the next step would be to form a national unity government that would lay the groundwork for a new constitution and general elections. Prior to the war, Assad held uncontested elections where other candidates were not permitted to run against him.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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