Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared on television over the weekend to quell rumors that he has left the country. Assad appeared together with his wife on Saturday at a meeting with Syrian state employed journalists in Damascus.
The appearance was broadcast to contradict reports the Syrian president was in hiding or had fled. Last week photos of Assad greeting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Damascus prior to their meeting were published as well.
Assad's sister Bushra fled the country with her five children last week, and defected to the United Arab Emirates, where she currently lives in Dubai. Her husband was General Assef Shawkat, deputy chief of staff of the Syrian Armed Forces and former head of the Syrian Military Intelligence. He was a top member of Assad's inner circle, and one of a group of top regime officials who were killed in a bombing by opposition forces on July 18 in Damascus.
Syrian media reported Saturday that Assad thanked the reporters for their efforts in covering events from the country during the current “crisis.”
On the same day Assad's meeting with journalists was broadcast, some 180 Syrians were killed in clashes between government troops and opposition forces.
By Sunday, the Free Syrian Army told reporters that it had managed to bring most of the war-torn country under its control, a day after moving its headquarters back across the border from Turkey to "liberated areas" within Syria.
United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to brief the U.N. Security Council Monday on talks he has held with opposition forces and with the Assad regime. Brahimi and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement Saturday calling the country's savage civil war “a steadily increasing threat to regional peace and stability.”