Europe

Syria's Assad says priority is capturing IS capital Raqqa

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, people inspect the damage to a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, people inspect the damage to a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows blood soaked streets and several damaged buses in a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)

    This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows blood soaked streets and several damaged buses in a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, people inspect damage in a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, people inspect damage in a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Syria's President Bashar Assad tells a Chinese TV station that his military's priority is to reach the Islamic State group's de-facto capital of Raqqa — toward which U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also advancing.

The interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV aired Saturday, Assad says another IS stronghold, Deir el-Zour, can be targeted in parallel.

Assad says "in theory" he shares the same priority with U.S. President Donald Trump of fighting terrorism, but that they have had no formal contact yet. He says Russia, a major ally, hopes it can bring the U.S. and Turkey into cooperating with Moscow and Damascus in the fight against terrorism in Syria. Assad's government views all armed opposition as terrorist groups.

Assad says all foreign troops on Syrian soil without invitation or consultation with the Syrian government are considered "invaders."