In an interview given to a number of Russian news outlets, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has criticized what he described as the West's "double standards" on Syrian refugees.
"Today, Europe is trying to say that Europe feels guilty because it hasn’t given money or hasn’t allowed these people to immigrate legally, and that’s why they came across the sea and drowned,"Assad told reporters in the interview broadcast Wednesday, according to RT. "We are sad for every innocent victim, but is the victim who drowns in the sea dearer to us than the victim killed in Syria?"
Assad said that people had fled Syria because of "terrorism," referring to the Syrian opposition fighters who had battled his government since 2011. "It’s like the West now is crying for the refugees with one eye and aiming at them with a machine gun with the second one, because actually those refugees left Syria because of the terrorism," he said.
"So, the West is crying for [the refugees], and the West is supporting terrorists since the beginning of the crisis when it said that this was a peaceful uprising," Assad said, "when they said later it’s moderate opposition, and now they say there is terrorism like al-Nusra and ISIS, but because of the Syrian state or the Syrian regime or the Syrian president."
Various groups have emerged in Syria since the civil war began, including a number that the West considers moderate and supports. The Syrian president said different factions in Syria need to unite to end the civil war. "That is logical and self-evident," Assad said. However, while he seemed to suggest a political solution was possible, he said that "terrorism" must be defeated first.
In a long and wide-ranging interview, Assad said there had been no coordination with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State and denied talk of a potential peace initiative proposed by Iran. However, he did offer praise for Russia, claiming that the Russian sponsorship of peace talks has been neutral and criticizing Western "propaganda" against President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has been a key supporter of Assad on the international stage and recently escalated its military support for the Syrian government.
"We are supporting the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression, are offering and will continue to offer it necessary military-technical assistance," Putin said in recent televised remarks. "Without an active participation of the Syrian authorities and the military, it would be impossible to expel the terrorists from that country and the region as a whole, and to protect the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Syrian people from destruction."
Data collected by a number of groups has shown that the majority of deaths in Syria appear to have been caused by troops loyal to Assad. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, Assad’s military and pro-government militias killed 7,894 people between January and July. Meanwhile, the Islamic State killed 1,131. A recent poll found that most Syrians hoped for a diplomatic solution to the war — with 65 percent still believing that Syrians can live together.
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