Syria needs more time to end the conflict raging across the country, President Bashar al-Assad said in a television interview that was to be broadcast by the pro-regime Addounia channel yesterday.
Al-Assad also scoffed at an idea being championed by Turkey of creating buffer zones within Syria to receive those displaced by the conflict, in advance excerpts of the interview screened by the private channel.
“I can summarize in one phrase: We are progressing, the situation on the ground is better but we have not yet won — this will take more time,” al-Assad said.
“Talk of buffer zones firstly is not on the table and secondly it is an unrealistic idea by hostile countries and the enemies of Syria,” he added.
French President Francois Hollande said on Monday Paris was working with its partners on the possible establishment of such buffer zones, which are aimed at preventing those displaced by the fighting flooding over the borders into neighboring states.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius acknowledged yesterday that plans to create buffer zones in Syria were “very complicated” and would require the imposition of partial no-fly zones.
Al-Assad also mocked those defecting from his regime, saying their departure amounted to a “self-cleansing of the government firstly and the country generally.”
His regime has been rattled by several high-profile defections as the Syrian conflict has escalated, including former prime minister Riad Hijab and prominent General Manaf Tlass, one of al-Assad’s childhood friends.
The Syrian leader paid tribute to government security forces, who have been fighting rebels nationwide, for their “heroic conduct.”
“Despite several mistakes, there is a strong bond” between the regime and the Syrian people, al-Assad said, boasting the support of the majority of the country’s population.
“Everyone is worried about their country, that is normal, but they [rebels] will not be able to spread fear, they never will,” he said.
“I say to Syrians, destiny is in your hands, and not in the hands of others,” he said.
The regime in Damascus has accused the opposition of plotting a rebellion with the help of countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to sow chaos in Syria.
“Syria needs no lessons in matters of sovereignty or national issues or friendly countries or enemy countries,” al-Assad said.
Addounia said it would screen the full interview at 6pm GMT yesterday.
Al-Assad’s comments come a day after a car bomb rocked the funeral of two government loyalists in a Damascus suburb, killing 27 people, and as his army kept up its bombardment of rebel strongholds in the east of the capital.
Fighting between rebels and loyalist troops raged in several flashpoints, including in the commercial hub Aleppo, northwestern Idlib province and eastern Deir Ezzor.
Activists say about 25,000 people have been killed since the uprising against al-Assad’s rule broke out in March last year, while the UN says more than 214,000 people have fled to neighboring countries.