BEIRUT – Syria's president Bashar Assad urged Syrian political and armed factions to unite in the fight against terrorist groups and said in comments aired Tuesday that there can be no political solution for the country's brutal civil war before terrorism is defeated.
Speaking in an interview with Russian media, he also blamed Europe for the refugee crisis currently hitting the continent, saying it is a direct result of the West's support of extremists in Syria over the past four years.
The Russian president has said it is impossible to defeat the Islamic State group without cooperating with Damascus. In recent days Moscow has sent about a half-dozen battle tanks and other weaponry — along with military advisers, technicians, security guards and portable housing units — to Syria with the apparent goal of setting up an air base near the coastal town of Latakia, a stronghold of the Syrian President.
U.S. officials have said Moscow is simply trying to prop up Assad.
In the interview Assad did not directly address the Russian moves, only praising Moscow as an "independent state" and an "impartial" broker of dialogue between Syrian groups.
He urged the formation of a united front against the Islamic State group, saying the priority of every single Syrian citizen is to be secure.
"We, the political parties, the government and the armed groups that fought against the government, we must all unite in the name of combating terrorism," Assad said.
He said dialogue can continue, but added that nothing can be implemented unless terrorism is defeated first.
Assad also said Europe is to blame for the refugee crisis, citing also what he described as a failure to enforce a controlled immigration system, forcing refugees to set out across perilous seas.
"We all mourn these innocent victims but is one life lost drowned at sea more valuable than those who have died in Syria? How can one be indignant about a drowned child and remain silent about the death of thousands of children, elderly people, women and men killed by terrorists in Syria? These European double standards are unacceptable," he said.
"Europe is to blame in its principles because it supports terrorism and continues to do so, it provides protection for terrorists, calling them moderates, divides them into groups, when they are in fact the terrorist groups in Syria," he said.
Addressing Europeans, Assad added: "Stop, if you are worried about them (refugees), stop supporting terrorists."
The Syrian government considers all armed groups fighting to topple Assad to be terrorists.