Assad welcomes French presidential candidate Fillon’s views on Syria
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In an interview with French media Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he welcomed conservative French presidential candidate François Fillon’s policies on terrorism.
“But we have to be cautious, because we have learned in this region during the last few years [is] that many officials would say something and do the opposite,” Assad said. “I wouldn’t say that Mr Fillon would do this, I hope not… but we have to wait and see, because there is no contact. But so far, what he says, if that will be implemented, that would be very good.”
Polls predict that Fillon, who has said France needs a closer relationship with Russia, Assad’s top ally, to resolve the Syrian civil war, is likely to win the second round of May’s presidential election against far right leader Marine Le Pen.
‘On the path to victory’
Assad said that his forces are on the road to victory after recapturing the key city of Aleppo last month.
"We do not consider that (retaking Aleppo from the rebels) as a victory because victory will be when we have eliminated all the terrorists," Assad said. "But it is a critical moment in this war because we are on the path to victory."
It was his first interview with French media since the December 22 recapture of the rebel-held east of the city, which had been under siege for months.
Rebel forces, who seized east Aleppo in 2012, agreed to withdraw after a month-long army offensive that drove them from more than 90 percent of their former territory.
The loss of east Aleppo was the biggest blow to Syria's rebel movement in the nearly six-year conflict, which has killed more than 310,000 people.
‘Every war is bad’
Asked about heavy bombing raids that ravaged the city and claimed large numbers of civilian lives, Assad said: "Every war is bad."
"But you have to liberate, and this is the price sometimes," he added, "In the end, the people are liberated from the terrorists."
Earlier Sunday in Damascus, Assad told visiting French lawmakers that he was "optimistic" about new peace talks planned for later this month in Kazakhstan.
The talks in Astana are being organised by regime allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey, following the imposition on December 30 of a fragile Syria-wide ceasefire.
French lawmaker Thierry Mariani said Assad also declared himself willing to negotiate with nearly 100 rebel groups fighting against his government, excluding jihadist organisations.
Assad said his government was ready to negotiate on "everything".
Asked if the government was ready to discuss his position as president, Assad said "yes but my position is linked to the constitution".
"If they want to discuss this point they must discuss the constitution," he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)