'Pupils salute prior to entering classrooms at a school in Damascus on 27 January 2013. Syrian students started the second term of the school-year
despite the ongoing conflict'
[Al Akhbar] Damascus – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told visitors that the Syrian army "regained the initiative on the ground to a very high degree and achieved important results, which will come to light soon."
"Externally funded armed groups received several hard blows recently," Assad added.
"The US is not ready for a solution in the time being." He believed that Russia will remain his ally. "It is defending itself, not the regime in Syria," he continued, stressing that "we will not budge from the articles of the Geneva agreement."...On the personal level, the man seems calm and in control. His confidence level stands out. Also, there’s the news of the pregnancy of his wife Asmaa, which could not be dealt with as a simple personal matter between a couple.mFrom the personal to the political, Assad speaks about "the minutest details in the Syrian provinces. His information encompasses a street here and the news of a small neighborhood there. The reports he receives are comprehensive, even when they’re not to his liking. Assad is thoroughly aware of the international efforts to solve the crisis in Syria.” Some remark by saying, “If it was not so, the state would not have been able to survive for this long, the Syrian Arab Army would not have maintained its cohesion.”
Assad maintains that “the army has regained the initiative on the ground to a large extent, achieving important results, in addition to what it had achieved in the last 22 months. It stopped fighters from controlling whole governorates, limiting their playground to border zones with Turkey mainly, and Jordan and Lebanon to an extent. There are also some pockets in the capital’s countryside, which are being dealt with by the army. The capital Damascus is in a better situation. Its strategic points – despite all the attempts by the militants – remained safe, especially the airport road.”
Stopping at what happened at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus, Assad says that camp has its symbolism, which led the Syrian leadership not to take the decision to confront the militants that occupied a part of it. The solution of the Yarmouk predicament was left to the Palestinian factions, to provide initiatives for a solution, which the Syrian official side agreed to.
The Syrian president was asked by his visitors about what he said in the Opera House about “refusing to let Syria become a hotel resort.” He answered by saying that he does not want to dwell on that debate, but “I was hurt by those who should have been witness that our dealings with the Palestinian factions were never based on religion or confession.”....
Assad asserts that “what the Syrian army achieved in the last few weeks will come to light soon.” He shares some details, which can be taken as an indicator of “a real change of the situation on the ground. For example, there are 15,000 citizens who returned voluntarily to Homs. The Syrian people are fed up already with all these deviants that destroyed their streets, homes, and commercial shops.”
Assad sees that “closing the Syrian borders to the weapons and smugglers could resolve the issue in two weeks, since the sources of money and arms will be destroyed.”
He told his visitors that “the externally-funded armed groups received strong blows recently. This development intersects with an international move, most prominently the inclusion of al-Nusra Front on the terrorism list, which will be followed by further measures that will lead to wiping out this al-Qaeda branch altogether.”
Assad believes that the US is not ready for a solution in the time being. He believes Russia will continue to support him. “It is protecting itself, not the Syrian regime,” he explained, stressing that “we will not budge on the articles of the Geneva agreement.”
He stressed that Syria will continue to cooperate with the Arab-International envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, although “the latter seemed in his latest visit to Damascus to be somehow influenced by the media campaign against Syria.”
... He stresses the need for “logistical arrangements for the next phase. There is a plan to return the refugees to their districts and homes, which will be announced in due time and there are other plans for reconstruction.”