Earlier today, in a speech addressing the Syrian parliament in Damascus, President Bashar Al-Assad praised the parliamentary elections that were held earlier this year, stressing the fact that an unprecedented number of voters had turned out at the ballot box despite the dangers of participation during the war, with jihadist groups having targeted those who took part in previous elections.
As the Syrian army continues its advance onto Raqqa, President Assad repeated his defiant pledge to liberate all Syrian territories: “Just like we liberated Palmyra and many other areas before it, we are going to liberate each and every inch of Syria from their hands because we have no other choice but to win.”
As in many of his recent speeches, Assad devoted much time to praising the sacrifices of those who had died fighting for the Syrian Arab Army, as well as their families and others who had lost loved ones to jihadist groups over the last 5 years. And after paying homage to the dead and injured of Syria, the President also extended his thanks to those countries that have supported the republic; especially Iran, Russia and China.
This was in stark contrast to the few comments he made regarding his political opponents in the region, accusing countries that support Islamist groups in Syria of resorting to sectarianism in order to achieve their long-term goals. As such, he made a plea for unity among the Syrian people in the face of this sectarian trend: “Syrians are brothers in life and martyrdom.”
He reserved his worst criticisms for his opponents in Ankara, at one point calling Erdogan’s government a “fascist regime” before going on to challenge Erdogan’s personal ambitions in the region: “Aleppo will be the grave where all the dreams and hopes of that butcher will be buried.”
President Assad has previously accused his Turkish counterpart of wanting to revive Ottoman ambitions in the region.
Assad also touched upon the failure of the latest round of Geneva negotiations, which ended after the withdrawal of the lead negotiator for the opposition, Muhammad Alloush – also a political leader of the ‘Army of Islam’ insurgent group. The president described some of the reasons for this, claiming that a set of principles that would serve as the basis for any talks was proposed by representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic, but that this proposal remains unanswered. Moreover, he suggested that up to this time no real talks had taken place, and, that when opposition groups had failed to get what they wanted at Geneva, “their response was an open declaration of supporting terrorism and withdrawing from the cessation of hostilities agreement… this was what we saw of targeting civilians and hospitals in Aleppo.”
He went on to reiterate his belief that any political process that does not make the fight against terrorist groups a central issue would be fruitless, and renewed calls for “all those who took up arms for any reason to join the reconciliation process” – a process that is being facilitated by Russian intermediaries and which has had some modest success throughout the country, allowing some villages relief from all fighting, and providing former insurgents with full amnesty.
He ended his speech by tying together the importance of political reforms and the overall war effort: “If restoring security to Syria, achieving victory over terrorism, bringing back the homeland and reconstructing it is the outcome that stops the martyr’s blood from being spilt in vain, then fighting the harmful phenomena of corruption, nepotism and disregard for the law are the second part of that,” the President said.
The full speech is available here, in Arabic: