Thu May 11, 2017 09:36PM
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) speaks during an exclusive interview with Belarus' TV network ONT in Damascus, Syria, on May 11, 2017.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) speaks during an exclusive interview with Belarus' TV network ONT in Damascus, Syria, on May 11, 2017.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says a deal to establish de-escalation zones in Syria with the aim of reducing violence in the war-torn Arab country will not fall short as Iran and Russia will not hesitate to respond appropriately to any form of its violation.

“Former initiatives failed not because they were wrong. They failed because Western states interfered in order to re-escalate militarily. That’s why we hope that this plan will give an opportunity to those countries to realize that any escalation will fail; because the Syrian and Russian forces, with support from Iran and [the Lebanese resistance movement of] Hezbollah, will strike any violation on the part of the terrorists,” Assad stated in an interview with Belarusian TV network ONT in Damascus on Thursday.

Russia, with backing from Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran, brokered the deal for establishing de-escalation zones in mainly militant-held areas of Syria during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital city of Astana last week.

The plan, which came into effect at midnight on May 5, calls for the cessation of hostilities between militant groups and Syrian government forces.  

It covers the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, northeastern areas of the western coastal province of Latakia, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. 

It also applies to the Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in Homs province, Eastern Ghouta district in the northern Damascus countryside as well as the militant-controlled southern part of the country along the border with Jordan.

Assad also dismissed allegations that a demographic change is taking place inside Syria.

“The Syrian government does not force anybody to leave. Reconciliation gives local residents the option either to depart or stay. It also gives rebels the chance to lay down their weapons and settle their legal status if they wish to stay, or leave the area if they do not want to do so,” the Syrian leader said.

“If the Damascus government had wanted to impose demographic change, why didn’t it bring people from other areas and settle them in place of the original population? The areas whose populations have left as a result of terrorist acts remain deserted,” he pointed out.

Syrian girls walk past destroyed buildings in the militant-held town of Douma on the eastern outskirts of Damascus on May 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Syrian president also attached great significance to the return of internally displaced families to their hometowns.

“There are no obstacles in this regard. The government is doing its best to provide necessary services for internally displaced persons. Many people have changed their place of residence in the wake of acts of terror. Damascus continues to provide humanitarian aid with the help of friendly countries,” Assad said.

The Syrian president further highlighted that a recent suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun town was part of a Western scenario to demonize the incumbent Damascus government.

“Western states could initially deceive a section of the Syrian nation to believe the fallacy that their ruling government is horrific. They later sought to prepare public opinion at home for intervention and a military operation against Syria,” he said.

Over 80 people died in the April 4 purported gas attack on Khan Shaykhun, which Western countries blamed on the Syrian government.

Using the incident as a pretext, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s central province of Homs on April 7. US officials claimed that the suspected Khan Shaykhun attack had been launched from the military site.

Syria’s official news agency, SANA, reported that at least nine people had been killed in the early morning strike on the Syrian airfield.

In this image released by the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Assad said most Western statesmen have to keep on fabricating lies against the Syrian government because any volte-face will serve as a political suicide for them.

“Their political interests are more important than national interests and lives of ordinary people,” he said.

The Syrian president also said his nation is simultaneously fighting against terrorists and those who sponsor terrorism.

“Terrorism is only an instrument at the service of Western states to promote the Nazi mentality, dominate anyone, take nations as slaves and plunder all their possessions both materially and spiritually,” Assad commented.