DAMASCUS, Syria – The Associated Press sat down with Syrian President Bashar Assad at a palace in downtown Damascus. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
-- On the prospects of a cease-fire: "We announced that we are ready to be committed to any halt of operations, or if you want to call it cease-fire, but it's not about Syria or Russia; it's about the United States and the terrorist groups that have been affiliated to ISIS and al-Nusra and al-Qaida, and to the United States and to Turkey and to Saudi Arabia."
-- On a U.S.-led airstrike that killed over 60 Syrian troops in the country's east last week: " It was four airplanes that kept attacking the position of the Syrian troops for nearly one hour, or a little bit more than one hour. You don't commit a mistake for more than one hour. ... It was definitely intentional, not unintentional as they claimed."
-- On the U.S.'s credibility with regards to Syria's war: "I would say whatever the American officials said about the conflicts in Syria in general has no credibility. Whatever they say, it's just lies and, let's say, bubbles, has no foundation on the ground."
-- On the air strikes that destroyed a Red Crescent convoy in rebel-held territory on Monday: "Those convoys were in the area of the militants, the area under the control of the terrorists. That's what they should accuse first: the people or the militants, the terrorists who are responsible for the security of this convoy. So, we don't have any idea about what happened."
-- On the Syrian government's use of overwhelming force: "When you have terrorists, you don't throw at them balloons or you don't use rubber sticks, for example. You have to use armaments."
-- On whether he has the support of the Syrian people: "You cannot withstand for five years and more against all those countries, the West, and the Gulf states, the petrodollars, and all this propaganda, the strongest media corporations around the world, if you don't have the support of your own people."
-- On whether the government has besieged civilians in eastern Aleppo: "If there's really a siege around the city of Aleppo, people would have been dead by now. ... How could they be starving while at the same time they can have armaments? How can we prevent the food and the medical aid from reaching that area and we cannot stop the armaments form reaching that area, which is not logical? ... Why don't you have, for example, an epidemic, if you don't have doctors?"
-- On the remaining duration of the war: "When you talk about it as part of a global conflict and a regional conflict, when you have many external factors that you don't control, (the war) is going to drag on and no one in this world can tell you when (it will end) but the countries, the governments, the officials who support directly the terrorists."