11 Days Remaining

Monday 21st
posted by James Tweedie in World

SHELLING killed four civilians in Damascus yesterday after President Bashar al-Assad ruled out detente with Western nations until they end support for extremists.

Shortly after Mr Assad delivered his speech, shells landed at the entrance to the Damascus Fair, killing four people and wounding four others.

The government had hailed the international event that began last week as a sign of Syria’s emergence from six years of Western-backed war.

No group claimed responsibility, but the closest insurgent-held zone is the north-eastern suburbs of Jobar and Ayn Tarma, occupied by Faylaq al-Rahman, which received CIA support until the programme was cancelled two months ago.

On Friday the Russian Defence Ministry announced the group had agreed to a ceasefire with the government, ending weeks of fierce fighting. Earlier Mr Assad told Western powers to end all support for insurgent groups.

“There will be no security cooperation or opening of embassies or role for some states that say they are looking for a solution until they cut off their ties with terrorism in a clear and unambiguous way,” he said.

He hailed the army and its international allies’ recent string of victories against Isis, now collapsing in the oil-rich central desert region and in their pocket straddling the border with Lebanon.

And he said economic recovery was proceeding “at a very slow pace, although we are under an almost complete embargo.”

Mr Assad said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “playing the role of political beggar after his support for terrorists was exposed.”

Last week Turkish and Iranian military chiefs met for the first time in years amid improving relations between Ankara, Tehran and Moscow, sponsors of a ceasefire in western Syria.

But Mr Assad said: “We don’t consider the Turkish side to be a partner nor a guarantor nor do we trust it.”

On Friday US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denied Thursday’s claims by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Talal Silo that the US would occupy bases in the north of the country for “decades” after Isis is defeated.

“We want Syria governed by Syrians, not by the United States, not by any other forces, but by Syrians,” she claimed.