MESOP Syria Daily: Assad Sets His Conditions For “Cessation of Hostilities” / “IRAN & RUSSIA ARE ESSENTIAL FOR REGIME”

by Scott Lucas – 21 Feb 2016 – After criticism from Russia over his refusal of negotiations, Syria’s President Assad has revised his position in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

In a rare public speech on Monday, Assad indicated that no talks could be held before a total defeat of rebels, “When gunmen suffer, when they are defeated, the term cease-fire happens between armies and states, but it doesn’t go between a state and terrorists.”

Assad’s position irritated Moscow, who are formally working with the UN and the International Syria Support Group to pursue the “cessation of hostilities” and talks between the regime and the opposition-rebel bloc. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: “If [Syrian authorities] follow the leadership of Russia in regulating this crisis, then they will have a chance to get out of it with dignity.”

So Assad told El Pais that the regime would “definitely” respect a cessation of hostilities. At the same time, he set out two conditions: It’s about, first of all, to stop the fire, but it’s about the other complimentary and more important factors, preventing the terrorists from using the ceasefire or the cessation of hostility in order to improve their position. It’s about preventing other countries, especially Turkey, from sending more recruits, more terrorists, more armaments, or any kind of logistical support to those terrorists.

The President also attempted to exclude leading rebel factions, as well as the Islamic State and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra, from any ceasefire:

  1. There will be still some fighting even though there’s this ceasefire, at least against some of the armed groups?

Assad: Yes, of course, like ISIS, like al-Nusra, and other organizations or terrorist groups that belong to Al Qaeda. Now, Syria and Russia announced four names: Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam and al-Nusra and ISIS.


Assad acknowledged that Russian and Iranian assistance was necessary to support his regime against the opposition and rebels, saying it was “essential for our army to make” advances in recent offensives in northwestern and southern Syria. He justified the assistance by saying that “more than 80 countries supported…terrorists in different ways”.

At the same time, the President said his vision was of a personal mission to win the conflict: “In ten years, if I can save Syria, [if] Syria is safe and sound, and I’m the one who saved his country, that’s my job now, that’s my duty.”


Assad denied any claims of his military and Russia causing deliberate harm to civilians through long-term sieges and bombing.

The President said, “We never make embargo on any region in Syria.” He insisted that any shortages was because rebels seized food and sold it at high prices.

Despite documentation of almost 2,000 civilian deaths from Russian airstrikes, Assad claimed that the only casualties were due to the US:

We don’t have any evidence that the Russians attacked any civilian targets. They are very precise in their targets, they always everyday attack the bases or the targets of the terrorists. Actually, it’s the Americans who did this, who killed many civilians in the northeastern part of Syria, not the Russians. I mean, not a single incident happened regarding the civilians so far, because they don’t attack in the cities; they attack actually mainly in the rural areas. The President also denied any civilian deaths in detention or torture, saying that thousands of photographs documenting casualties and abuse were a forgery by Qatar: “That’s the problem with the West and propaganda; they use unverified information to accuse Syria and to blame it and then to take action against it.”