Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. File photo
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DAMASCUS – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the West is “crying” for refugees flooding into Europe “while its support for terrorists in Syria lies at the roots of the crisis”.
Syrian regime considers all factions involved in fighting against its forces as terrorists, including Western-backed rebels.
“If you (Western powers) are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists,” the embattled leader said in an interview with Russian media on Wednesday. “That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.”
“Those refugees left Syria because of terrorism and the continuous killing,” Assad said, denying any role for his loyal forces in displacing people.
“When you have terrorism, and you have the destruction of the infrastructure, you won’t have the basic needs of living,” he said.
Europe is struggling to deal with unusually large numbers of migrants arriving at its borders, many of them refugees fleeing the years-long conflict in Syria that has killed more than 240,000 people.
Western leaders have criticized al-Assad for presiding over the violent fragmentation of his country, a war that helped spawn the rise of the militant group ISIS and has driven more than four million Syrians to flee abroad.
In his interview with Russian news organizations, Assad has also praised the Iranian support to his regime in the fight against rebel factions in Syria.
“Iran supports Syria and the Syrian people. It stands with the Syrian state politically, economically and militarily,” he said.
“When we say militarily, it doesn’t mean – as claimed by some in the Western media – that Iran has sent an army or armed forces to Syria. That is not true,” said Assad.
Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi