In a clip released Tuesday by Kremlin propaganda outlet Russia Today, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Europe of “not dealing with the crisis” as thousands of refugees flee the war-torn country.
“It’s not about that Europe didn’t accept them or embrace them as refugees, it’s about not dealing with the cause. If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists. That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.
“If we ask any Syrian today about what they want, the first thing they would say – ‘We want security and safety for every person and every family’,” the Syrian president said, adding that political forces, whether inside or outside the government “should unite around what the Syrian people want.”
In the preview, Assad appears sympathetic towards all of those within the “Syrian fabric,” which “includes people of many ethnicities and sects.”
“They are not foreigners,” he insisted.
Fighting between Assad’s troops and radical Islamic groups such as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) puts ordinary citizens in the crosshairs. Of course, Assad does not mention the fact that evidence shows his regime also attacks Syrians.
In August 2013, Syrian forces attacked two areas in Ghouta with sarin gas, a chemical weapon. Initial reports put the death toll at 300, but people kept finding bodies days after the attack. At the end of the month, the Washington Post reported at least 1,400 people died, including many children.
Syrian rebels accused Assad of another gas attack in Damascus the following month. They could not identify which chemical was used in the bomb, but published a YouTube video of people struggling to breathe. The Syrian air force struck a field hospital and school in Aleppo, killing at least 30 people.
In August, the United Nations security council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution to investigate if Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in Ghouta. They hope to discover those responsible, but the U.S., United Kingdom, and France have made it clear they believe it was Assad’s forces.
“Pointing the finger matters,” insisted Samantha Powers, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. “This sends a clear and powerful message to all those involved in chemical weapons attacks in Syria: the Joint Investigative Mechanism [the new body of UN and OPCW investigators] will identify you if you gas people.”
Assad also told Russian media, “the dialogue in Syria should be continued,” and peace cannot be achieved until terrorism is defeated:
“If you want to implement anything real, it’s impossible to do anything while you have people being killed, bloodletting hasn’t stopped, people feel insecure,” the Syrian president said.
“I’d like to use our meeting today to address all parties in a call to unite in the struggle against terrorism. Only through dialogue and the political process can we reach political goals, that the Syrians should set for themselves,” Bashar Assad said.
Assad’s allies include Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran, but Russia remains the largest. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his support when the civil war began over four years ago. The Kremlin continues to send more troops and equipment to Syria, which raised tensions even higher between Moscow and the West. State television broadcast Russian troops with Syrian forces, which sparked massive international criticism. Russian officials denied sending troops, but a Syrian official confirmed troops are fighting side-by-side. The Russian Foreign Ministry downplayed the claims, though.
“Russian military specialists help Syrians master Russian hardware, and we can’t understand the anti-Russian hysteria about this,” said spokeswoman Maria V. Zakharova. “We have been supplying Syria with arms and military equipment for a long time. We are doing this in accordance with existing contracts and in full accordance with international law.”