Published: Fri, February 17, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Assad wants 'every inch' of Syria, not just Raqqa

Assad wants 'every inch' of Syria, not just Raqqa

United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura - who had also been invited and attended the previous Astana meeting in January - said he would not attend the talks and Turkey also sent a lower-level delegation than before.

Mr Assad, however, insisted IS were "everywhere".

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings.

Assad last week rejected Trump's plan to establish "safe zones" for civilians in Syria, saying that could only happen "when you have stability and security".

Assad praised Turkey, Russia and Iran for leading the Syrian peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, and denounced the West for supporting "those groups that represented the terrorists against the government".

"Everywhere is a priority depending on the development of the battle", he said. The army's control over the crossing in the southern strip of the city would sever the militants' access to the eastern and western parts of Dara'a. "For us it is all the same, Raqqa, Palmyra, Idlib - it's all the same".

"They said they interviewed few witnesses, who are opposition and defected".

From the very beginning, the West made a mistake by voicing support for the opposition in Syria, Assad said. "So it's biased", the Syrian president said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be the new boy on the block in Geneva, allowing many fellow diplomats a first chance to meet the new American envoy and attempt to glean a clear US policy. To get information? We have all the information.

He argued: "If we commit such atrocities it's going to play into the hands of the terrorists, they're going to win".

"We want direct talks, I mean direct negotiations, just to save time and save lives because every day is costly for Syrians", the Syrian opposition figure said.

A fifth round of talks on Syria is set to take place in Geneva next week after two postponements.

Disputes over the agenda have helped to torpedo previous rounds of Syria peace talks. But on the topic of recent attacks carried out by extremists in France, he asserted they were "not necessarily prepared" in ISIL's Syrian stronghold.

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