BEIRUT - Western countries that back the revolt in Syria have started to shift position on the conflict because of the danger posed to them by militants, according to President Bashar al-Assad.
“The United States and the West have started to send signs of change. Terrorism is now on their soil,” said Assad, according to remarks published in a Lebanese newspaper that backs the Damascus regime.
“An American blew himself up on Syrian soil, while a Frenchman (of Algerian origin) killed Jews... in Brussels,” said Assad, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper.
A 29-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin who spent more than a year fighting in Syria is being held in custody on suspicion of a May 24 shooting that killed four people in Brussels.
Late last month, the United States said an American national carried out a suicide attack in the north of Syria.
Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised nations have announced a decision to tighten their defences against the risk of terror attacks by European militants returning from Syria.
According to Al-Akhbar, Assad said “current and former US officials are trying to get in touch with us, but they do not dare to because of the powerful lobbies that are pressuring them.” Syria’s war began as a peaceful movement demanding political change, but later morphed into an armed rebellion attracting foreign militants after the Assad regime unleashed a massive crackdown against dissent.
Meanwhile, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday it is willing to help Baghdad in the fight against “terrorism”, a day after militants overran Iraq’s second city Mosul. “The foreign-backed terrorism that our brothers in Iraq are facing is the same that is targeting Syria,” said the foreign ministry.
Damascus is “ready to cooperate with Iraq to face terrorism, our common enemy”, it said in a statement.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a radical militant group operating in Iraq and Syria. It aims to establish an Islamic emirate stretching across the two countries’ borders.
ISIL militants spearheaded a militant offensive on Tuesday that claimed the province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul, as well as other parts of northern Iraq.
In Syria, ISIL controls large swathes of the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, which borders Iraq.
“This terrorism is a threat to peace and security in the region and the world,” said the Syrian ministry, calling on the UN Security Council “to decisively condemn these terrorist and criminal acts, and to take action against the countries supporting these groups.”
In Syria, the regime has systematically branded peaceful opponents, rebels and militants alike as “terrorists” backed by the Gulf.
But rebels and dissidents opposed to President Assad’s regime have turned against ISIL because of their quest for hegemony and systematic abuses.