Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says militants from 29 different countries are now fighting against the government in different parts of the country.
Assad made the remarks in a lengthy interview with Argentina’s Clarin newspaper and the Argentine state news agency Telam on Saturday in Damascus, the official SANA news agency reported on Sunday.
“Recent credible reports show that there are approximately 29 nationalities of foreign fighters engaged in terrorism activities within Syria’s borders,” he said.
Assad stated that foreign intervention is the most important factor aggravating the situation in Syria.
When he was asked that what has made the Syrian crisis so complex and protracted, Assad said, “Firstly, numerous factors have influenced the Syrian crisis both internally and externally, the most significant of which is foreign interference. Secondly, the calculations of confrontational states that intervened in Syria have now proven incorrect. These states perceived their plan would succeed within weeks or months; this has not materialized. What has transpired is that the Syrian people have resisted, and continue to resist and reject all forms of external intervention. For us, it is a matter of safeguarding Syria.”
Assad also accused the West and the US of interfering in his country’s internal affairs.
“We do not believe that many Western countries really want a solution in Syria. And we don’t think that the forces that support the terrorists want a solution to the crisis,” he noted.
The Syrian president said that any decision on the country’s future is up to the Syrian people and that the US has no right to decide for his nation.
“I don’t know if [US Secretary of State John] Kerry or anyone else has received the power of the Syrian people to talk in their name about who should go and who should stay. That will be determined by the Syrian people in the 2014 presidential elections,” Assad said. “To resign would be to flee.”
“The Syrian people will decide whether I remain in office or not. As a president, it is not for me to decide whether I stay or go, this is the decision of the electorate. It is impossible to lead when you are not desired by the public; this is essentially common sense and doesn’t need much debate. Through the constitution and the presidential elections in 2014, the people will decide,” he added.
The Syrian leader also played down an upcoming Western-sponsored conference on his country.
“We have received the Russian-US approach well and we hope that there will be an international conference to help Syrians overcome the crisis,” Assad said.
“We must be clear… there is confusion in the world over a political solution and terrorism. They think that a political conference will stop terrorism on the ground. This is unrealistic,” he stated.
“We reiterate our support for all steps that would entail stopping the violence in Syria and lead to a political solution. However, the cessation of violence is paramount to reaching a political settlement,” Assad emphasized.
He said that any decision on his political future must be made in elections, and not during such meetings.
The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.