European Powers Must Help Repatriate Syrian Refugees—President Bashar Assad

Syria’s Assad: Europe Must Help Refugees Return

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President Bashar Assad has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country.
President Bashar Assad has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country. | Photo: Reuters

Syria’s president says the West is responsible for the massive movement of refugees.

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Europe Friday to play a role in helping refugees return to his country when fighting ends.

Assad called on European nations “which have been a direct cause for the emigration of these people, by giving cover to terrorists in the beginning and through sanctions imposed on Syria, to help Syrians return to their country.”

The Syrian government has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country.

“I would like to ask every person who left Syria to come back,” Assad told AFP.

However, he noted, “They would ask ‘why should I come back? Has terrorism stopped?'”

During the same interview, Assad vowed to continue the fight against terrorism, while engaging in United Nations brokered negotiations.

“If we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism. The two tracks are inevitable in Syria,” he said.

Peace talks are on hold until February 25, though earlier Friday a group of 17 nations agreed to continue to back negotiations. In a statement, the International Syria Support Group said fighting in Syria could end within a week if Assad and major insurgent organizations backed their peace plan.

Speaking to AFP, Assad said he has “fully believed in negotiations and in political action since the beginning of the crisis.”

Syria’s civil war has left more than 250,000 people dead since the conflict broke out in 2011. Over 11 million Syrians have been displaced by fighting.

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Carter Says UAE Will Put Special Forces in Syria

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secdef carterThe Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, second right, shakes hands with British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon during a Counter-ISIL Coalition Ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter expects Thursday’s three-hour gathering of defense ministers from more than two dozen countries to endorse a new U.S. plan for prosecuting the war. The ministers were expected to issue a joint statement at the conclusion of their meeting at NATO headquarters. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

 

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says a key Persian Gulf ally has agreed to send special forces soldiers to Syria to assist in the development of local Sunni Arab fighters focused on recapturing Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s capital.

Carter made the comment after meeting Friday at his Brussels hotel with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates.

Carter declined to say how many Emirati special forces would go to Syria. He said they would be part of an effort led by the United States and bolstered by Saudi special forces to train and enable local Arab fighters who are motivated to recapture Raqqa.

The U.S. war plan for fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is designed to unseat the extremists in Raqqa and Mosul, which is the group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq.

Carter also told reporters that however the proposed suspension of Syrian civil war hostilities is implemented, as announced in Munich, the U.S. will continue combating IS in Syria.

“There is no cease-fire in the war against ISIL,” Carter said. “Let’s be clear about that.”

Diplomats meeting in Munich, Germany fell short early Friday in organizing a truce in the Syrian civil war but agreed to try to work out details and implement a temporary “cessation of hostilities” in a week’s time. The foreign ministers from the International Syria Support Group managed to seal an agreement to “accelerate and expand” deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian communities beginning this week.

Carter said the US military will not participate in those aid deliveries.

U.S. and Russia are to lead a working group meeting Friday to work out aid delivery details.

Five years of conflict have killed more than a quarter-million people, created Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II and allowed the Islamic State to carve out its own territory across parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Overall, the United Nations says almost half a million people are besieged in Syria. Since the beginning of 2015, Syria’s government had approved just 13 inter-agency aid convoys, out of 113 requested, the U.N. reported last month.