Syrian President Bashar Assad in a speech Tuesday vowed to take back “every inch” of the country from his foes, seemingly rejecting a peaceful transition of power as called for by the U.S. and other countries.
In his first major address since the effort to mediate an end to the civil war broke down in Geneva this April, Assad took a dig at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said Aleppo would be a graveyard for the former’s hopes and dreams. He accused Turkey of being a major sponsor of the groups battling to remove Assad from power.
“Our war against terrorism is continuing,” Assad said in a speech to parliament broadcast by state TV, Reuters reported. “As we liberated Tadmur (Palmyra) and before it many areas, we will liberate every inch of Syria from their hands. Our only option is victory, otherwise Syria will not continue.”
In recent months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other members of the International Syria Support Group have attempted to set a series of deadlines and limits that Syria cannot violate. The U.N. has attempted to send in humanitarian aid but has repeatedly been turned back by Syrian authorities because of the self-imposed siege over a large part of the country.
“The speech was, unfortunately, vintage Assad — unrepentant and damaging to international efforts to end the brutal civil war that has ravaged the country for more than five years — the same international efforts that his principal backers, Russia and Iran, support,” Mark C. Toner, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday night.
Combating suggestions of divisions in the alliance with Iran and Russia, Assad said people should not listen to reports about “differences, struggles and divisions,” adding that the alliance was stronger than ever.
By adopting such a hardline approach, Toner argued that Syria was defying not just Kerry, but also its two most vital allies, Russia and Iran.
Over 250,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war while millions have fled their homes and many are living as refugees all over the world.