Syria's Assad says still pursuing political solution for rebel-held south

Assad in Tartus mosque for end-of-Ramadan prayer

After seven years of conflict, the southwest of Syria, bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is one of the parts of the country still outside the state's control.

The coastal city of Tartus is the site of a naval base belonging to Assad's key backer Russian Federation, which has helped his forces retake swathes of opposition-held territory.

It was the highest death toll from bombing since a "de-escalation zone" was agreed in southwest Syria previous year by the government's ally Russian Federation, along with Jordan and the United States.

Israel was betting on [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad's ouster and it saw its interest in the militants, but today the Zionists have changed their objective in Syria and are saying that the battle's objective in Syria has become to expel Iran and Hezbollah [from Syria].

He said that there was a chance for reconciliation, but the "Americans and Israelis prevented it".

"If that doesn't succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force".

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"If we feel in the course of cooperation, coordination or negotiations with the Iranians that we may need Iranian military bases, we will not hesitate (to ask Iran)", Assad explained.

SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad has said that talks led by Moscow on the future of the south of the country were ongoing, but warned that Israel and the United States were preventing a negotiated settlement.

Assad added that his Syrian troops are supported by fighters from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.

Assad said Syria had invited Iran and Russian Federation to participate, but that he regarded American, French, Turkish and Israeli forces acting on Syrian territory as occupying powers.

This is done in a way that the artillery and air force of this regime are working as the artillery and air force of the terrorists, he underlined.

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