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Syria's Assad 'still pursuing political solution' after seven years of regime bombardment Open in fullscreen

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Syria's Assad 'still pursuing political solution' after seven years of regime bombardment

Russia support has helped prop up the Assad regime since 2015 [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 June, 2018

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President Bashar al-Assad said that his regime is still looking at a possible 'political solution' to the handover of opposition territories in southern Syria.
After seven years of conflict, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that his government is still pursuing a political solution for southern opposition territories, but will not hesitate to use military force should talks fail.

In an interview with Iranian channel Al-Alam News, Assad said that remaining opposition territories could be handed over to regime control, with the much-criticised "evacuation deals".

"We are giving the political process a chance. If that doesn't succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force," Assad said, according Syrian state news agency SANA.

Southwestern Syria - bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - is one of the last rebel-held areas outside regime control.

With the backing of Russian air force and Iranian-backed militias, Assad's forces have recovered large swathes of land from the opposition.

Since September 2015, Assad's forces have been making strong gains on the ground against rebels thanks to Russian air cover and ground forces mostly made up of Iran-backed fighters from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assad has pledged to take back "every inch" of Syria.

Assad now controls more than half of Syria's territories including the country's four largest cities.

Russian-backed offensives conducted with the Syrian regime and Iran have displaced some 2.5 million people and killed thousands of civilians.

Moscow has used its veto at the UN Security Council 12 times to shield the Syrian regime from accountability after using chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.

The US has voiced concern over an impending Syrian regime campaign in the south.

"Contacts are still ongoing between the Russians, the Americans and the Israelis," Assad said.

Iran's regional foe, Israel, has repeatedly warned it will not accept an entrenched Iranian presence in Syria.

It is suspected of carrying out numerous raids on Syrian regime and Iranian militia positions over the years.

Last month announced unprecedented strikes on what it said were Tehran-operated bases in Syria.

In his interview, Assad said that Iran does not have any military bases in Syria, unlike Russia, however, should there be "a need for Iranian military bases, we will not hesitate".

Assad added that his Syrian troops are supported by fighters from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.

"Hizballah is a basic element in this war - the battle is long, and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time."

Israel has long called for Iranian-backed forces such as Lebanon's Hizballah - which are backing the Assad regime - to keep away from its border with Syria.

The Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have witnessed heightened tensions in recent months causing many to fear an all-out conflict between Israel and Iran.

More than 500,000 people are thought to have been killed in the Syrian war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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