Assad rejects Trump’s ‘safe zones’ idea

Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Donald Trump, Saydnaya Prison, Amnesty International
Syrian President Bashar Assad during an interview with Yahoo News, February 2017, (c) Yahoo News

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has rejected Donald Trump’s call for “safe zones” in Syria.

Speaking to Yahoo News in what is a first interview since the US President came into office, Assad said the idea of military “safe zones” in Syria was “not realistic at all.”

“But actually, it won’t [protect civilians], it won’t. Safe zones for the Syrians could only happen when you have stability and security, where you don’t have terrorists, where you don’t have [the] flow and support of those terrorists by the neighbouring countries or by Western countries. This is where you can have a natural safe zone, which is our country. They don’t need safe zones at all. It’s not a realistic idea at all,” Assad said.

The Syrian President also left a door open for US military presence in Syria to fight the Islamic State but said this could only happen with his government’s approval and as part of a “rapprochement” with Russia. He also called for the US to lift economic sanctions on Damascus as a first step to developing ties.

Assad also rejected the recent report on Saydnaya prison by Amnesty International, which claimed that at least 13,000 people had been hanged in the prison between 2011 and 2015, as “lies” and a campaign to “demonise the Syrian government.”