Assad says no relations with Syria for countries backing rebels


'There will be neither security cooperation, nor the opening of embassies ... unless they explicitly cut their ties with terrorism'

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency shows Syrians holding portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as they arrive from Jarabulus back to their homes in Homs' al-Waer neighbourhood on 17 July 2017 (AFP)
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Sunday 20 August 2017 14:56 UTC

Countries that want to reopen embassies in Damascus or resume ties with Syria's government must end their support for Syria's rebels, President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday.

"We are not isolated like they think, it's their arrogance that pushes them to think in this manner," said Assad in a speech to members of Syria's diplomatic corps carried on state television.

"There will be neither security cooperation, nor the opening of embassies, nor a role for certain states that say they want to find a way out [of Syria's war)], unless they explicitly cut their ties with terrorism," he said.

The United States and most European countries shut their embassies in Damascus after the government's bloody crackdown on protests that erupted in March 2011.

Ties have remained severed throughout the brutal civil war that followed, which has since killed more than 330,000 people.

But in recent months there have been reports that Western countries could be seeking to quietly resume ties.

In May, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported that French President Emmanuel Macron was considering revisiting the decision to shutter Paris's embassy, though the Quai d'Orsay denied it.

France has been a leading backer of the Syrian opposition since 2011 and has regularly called for Assad's departure.

Assad's government has recovered large areas of territory from rebels and jihadists in recent months, its advances enabled by the start in September 2015 of a Russian military intervention to bolster regime troops.

In an televised address, Assad said that even though there were signs of victory after six-and-a-half years of civil war, the "battle continues, and where we go later and it becomes possible to talk about victory ... that's a different matter".

He did not elaborate on that point.

He said the assistance extended by stalwart allies Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement had enabled the army to make battlefield gains and reduce the burden of war.

"Their direct support - politically, economically and militarily - has made possible advances on the battlefield and reduced the losses and burdens of war," Assad said.

Assad renewed his criticism of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has long backed Syria's uprising and called for Assad to step down.

In recent months, Turkey has worked with regime allies Iran and Russia to draft truce deals in parts of Syria.

But Assad said "we consider Turkey to be neither a partner not a guarantor and we do not trust it".

Assad described Erdogan as a "political beggar, who seeks to give himself any role".