Bashar Al-Assad
Bashar Al-Assad Reuters

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Thursday vowed to continue to fight the rebels trying to oust him while calling UN-led peace talks fruitless.

Speaking in an interview with Belarusian TV Channel ONT and quoted by Reuters, Assad said that the de-escalation zones proposed by Russia were a chance for rebels to "reconcile" with Damascus, but he stressed he would defend the zones and to crush, with the support of Iran and Hezbollah, those who try to breach them.

Russia's proposal for zones took effect last week, covering areas in the west of the country. Assad said the primary aim of the plan was to protect civilians.

"The second goal is to give the militants who want reconciliation with the state a chance ... to settle their cases, hand over their weapons in return for amnesty," he said, according to Reuters.

Syria's opposition rejected the Russian plan, calling it a threat to the country's territorial integrity and refusing to recognize Iran as a guarantor of any ceasefire plan.

Assad, for his part, said Thursday he was "not tired" and would continue to fight terrorists - the government's term for all insurgents.

He also said U.S. President Donald Trump had ordered strikes against a Syrian air base last month - a response to an alleged chemical attack against civilians - in order to "present his credentials" to U.S. political and lobby groups.

Western states have blamed Assad’s army for the recent chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, in which sarin gas was used. Assad has repeatedly denied his government has any chemical weapons after agreeing to give them up to international monitors in 2013.

In fact, Assad recently claimed that the Khan Sheikhun attack was fabricated by the United States, insisting the Syrian army had already relinquished its chemical weapons reservoir.

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