Assad accuses world powers of supporting ‘terrorist organisations’ in Syria

Sunday 18/09/2016
Assad: Anti-Syrian forces are seeking to prolong war

DAMASCUS - President Bashar al-Assad on Monday described the deadly US-led coalition raid on his forces in eastern Syria at the weekend as "flagrant American aggression".

Speaking to Iran's deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Assad accused world powers of supporting "terrorist organisations" in Syria like the Islamic State jihadist group.

"Every time the Syrian state makes tangible progress either on the ground or towards national reconciliation, anti-Syrian states increase their support of terrorist organisations," Assad said in comments published by state news agency SANA.

"The latest example of this is the flagrant American aggression on one of the Syrian army's positions in Deir Ezzor to the benefit of Daesh" on Saturday, he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The US-led raid on Saturday evening hit a Syrian army post near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where government forces have been fighting off ISIS jihadists since last year.

At least 62 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strike. The Pentagon admitted it may have hit Syrian troops but said it had been tracking an ISIS position there.

"Anti-Syrian forces are expending all their energy and capabilities to prolong the terrorist war against Syria," Assad said.

The Syrian government has accused the US-led coalition -- which has been bombing ISIS in Syria for more than two years -- of carrying out an "intentional" strike to support ISIS in the area.

In a phone interview from Damascus on Sunday, senior Assad adviser Buthaina Shaaban said that the government "believes that the strike was intentional".

"None of the facts on the ground show that what happened was a mistake or a coincidence," she said.

Also on Monday, Russia's defence ministry appeared to bury a week-long Syria ceasefire brokered with the United States, saying rebel violations made it "pointless" for government troops to uphold the truce.

"Considering that the conditions of the ceasefire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally," Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy said in a televised briefing.

Rudskoy said the United States and rebel groups it backs "have not fulfilled one of the obligations taken upon themselves as part of the Geneva agreements," referring to a truce deal struck earlier this month in the Swiss city.

He said "the main issue" was that moderate opposition units had not been separated from the fighters of Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate on the ground.

The comments come with the ceasefire already appearing to teeter on the brink of collapse after a US-led coalition strike killed dozens of regime soldiers on Saturday and the ravaged city of Aleppo was targeted by its first raids in nearly a week.

Since the ceasefire came into force a week ago, Russia and the United States have blamed each other for not doing enough to fulfill the deal, with relations strained even further by Saturday's deadly strikes.

Damascus' major ally Moscow insists that Syrian forces have fully respected the truce -- which is meant to end hostilities and ensure aid deliveries -- but that rebels have kept up bombardments.

Rudskoy said that the week-long truce had been violated 302 times and that 63 civilians had been killed.

The truce also includes the demilitarisation of the Castello Road, the main route for humanitarian assistance into the divided Syrian city of Aleppo.

Rudskoy said that the rebels had not withdrawn their military hardware from the area, preventing Syrian troops from doing the same.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due on Wednesday to attend a special Security Council meeting on Syria, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.