Bashar al-Assad says Syrian government needs more time to win the battle against rebels
President Bashar al-Assad has said Syrian government needs more time to “win the battle” against rebel forces.
In an interview with pro-government al-Dunya TV, Bashar al-Assad also dismissed as “unrealistic” the idea of creating humanitarian buffer zones within Syria.
Opposition activists say the army has launched offensives across the country to regain control of rebel-held areas.
Heavy shelling was reported on Tuesday in the capital, Damascus, Aleppo, and the north-western province of Idlib.
Bashar al-Assad said the Syrian government was “fighting a battle both regionally and internationally”.
“It definitely needs time to bring it to a decisive end. But I can sum it up in one sentence: we’re heading forward,” he told al-Dunya.
“The situation on the ground is better now, but the conclusion is not there yet. That needs some time.”
The security forces were “doing a heroic job in every sense”, he added.
“Everyone is worried about their country – that is normal. But [the rebels] will not be able to spread fear, they never will,” he said.
“I say to Syrians: destiny is in your hands, and not in the hands of others.”
The president mocked senior government and military officials who have defected in recent months, saying their departure amounted to a “self-cleansing of the government firstly, and the country generally”.
Responding to rumors about his whereabouts since a July bombing in Damascus killed four senior officials, he revealed that he was being interviewed from the presidential palace in the capital.
Bashar al-Assad also addressed the proposal by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to set up a United Nations-sanctioned “safe zone” inside Syria to shelter refugees and help distribute humanitarian aid.
“Talk of buffer zones firstly is not on the table and secondly it is an unrealistic idea by hostile countries and the enemies of Syria,” he said.
“Do we go back because of the ignorance of some Turkish officials or do we focus on our relationship with the Turkish people, especially those people who have stood by us during the crisis and were not swayed by the media and material propaganda?”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius admitted on Wednesday that creating a buffer zone would be impossible without imposing a no-fly zone deploying ground forces.
“We are thinking about this. It is very complicated. We cannot do it without the agreement of the Turks and other countries,” he told France Inter radio.
“But what we want is for things to move forward, to make Bashar fall as quickly as possible and at the same time find humanitarian solutions.”
The UN refugee agency warned on Tuesday that as many as 200,000 refugees could flee to Turkey to escape fighting in Syria – almost double the number Turkey has said it can take.
The UNHCR said 5,000 refugees were now arriving at the Turkish border every day, compared to about 500 earlier this month. There are already more than 74,000 in Turkey, and 128,000 in other countries.
There are also thought to be more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Syria, and 2.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.