Assad to Russia delegation: Eradication of terrorism leads to political solution
DAMASCUS - Syria needs to eradicate "terrorism" to find a political solution to end the country's war, embattled President Bashar al-Assad told a visiting Russian delegation on Sunday, state media reported.
"The eradication of terrorist organisations will lead to the political solution that Syria and Russia seek and that will satisfy the Syrian people and preserve Syria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity," state news agency SANA quoted Assad as saying.
His comments came during talks with a Russian parliamentary delegation visiting Damascus just days after Assad went to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Russia, a staunch ally of the regime in Damascus, launched an aerial campaign in support of the government on September 30.
Moscow says it is targeting the Islamic State group and other "terrorists".
The campaign has drawn the ire of moderate and Islamist rebels who say they are being targeted, but Assad praised the Russian intervention on Sunday.
He expressed his "appreciation for the Russian position in support of the Syrian people, expressed most recently with the Russian air force's support of the Syrian army in its war against terrorism," SANA added.
Assad said Russia's role was "writing a new history because this war will determine the future of the region and the world, and victory against terrorism will protect not only Syria but all countries."
Earlier Sunday, a Russian lawmaker said Assad had told the delegation he was willing to hold new parliamentary and presidential elections and would run again as president.
"He is ready to conduct elections with the participation of all political forces who want Syria to prosper," Russian lawmaker Alexander Yushchenko said by phone from Damascus after meeting Assad.
Assad said he was ready to take part in the polls "if the people are not against it," Yushchenko added.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was time to start preparing for elections in Syria and that Moscow was ready to provide air support for Western-backed "patriotic" rebels.
Syria last held presidential elections in June 2014, with Assad re-elected for a seven-year term with 88.7 percent of the vote.
The election was dismissed by the opposition and condemned internationally.
The country last held parliamentary elections in May 2012, and is in theory due to hold its next legislative vote in 2016.