Syria’s al-Assad welcomes Fillon’s policies on terrorism
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he welcomed conservative French presidential candidate François Fillon’s policies on terrorism.
“[Fillon’s] priority to defy the terrorists and not meddling in the affairs of other countries are welcome,” he told RTL radio, LCP TV and France Info radio reporters.
“But we have to be cautious, because we have learned in this region during the last few years [is] that many officials would say something and do the opposite,” Assad said.
“I wouldn’t say that Mr Fillon would do this, I hope not… but we have to wait and see, because there is no contact. But so far, what he says, if that will be implemented, that would be very good.”
Al-Assad said also said in the an interview that his forces are on the road to victory after recapturing the key city of Aleppo last month.
"We don't consider it (retaking Aleppo from the rebels) as a victory. The victory will be when you get rid of all the terrorists," Assad said in the interview with France Info, LCP and RTL television.
"But it's a tipping point in the course of the war and it is on the way to victory," he said in excerpts provided by RTL.
It was his first interview with French media since the December 22 recapture of the rebel-held east of Aleppo, which had been under siege for months.
Rebel forces, who seized eastern districts of the city in 2012, agreed to withdraw after a month-long army offensive that drove them from more than 90 percent of their former territory.
The loss of east Aleppo was the biggest blow to Syria's rebel movement in the nearly six-year conflict, which has killed more than 310,000 people.
The violence has displaced more than half the country's population and caused massive destruction.
Asked about heavy bombing raids that ravaged the city and claimed large numbers of civilian lives, Assad said, in excerpts provided by France Info: "But you have to liberate, and this is the price sometimes."
He added: "But at the end, the people are liberated from the terrorists" -- Assad's term for all fighters opposed to his rule.
"Of course it's very painful for us as Syrians to see any part of our country destroyed, or to see any bloodshed anywhere," he said, adding: "Every war is bad."
The Syrian president asked, "Is it better to leave (civilians) under their (rebels') supervision, under their oppression, by beheading, by killing?"
Earlier Sunday in Damascus, Assad told visiting French lawmakers that he was "optimistic" about new peace talks planned for later this month in Kazakhstan.
The talks in Astana are being organised by Syria's allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey, following the imposition on December 30 of a fragile Syria-wide ceasefire.
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