Syrian leader al-Assad open to peace but will press fight against 'terrorism'

Will the Syria ceasefire work?
Will the Syria ceasefire work?

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Will the Syria ceasefire work? 01:06

Story highlights

  • Peace talks and fighting terrorism are "two tracks ... separate from each other," al-Assad tells AFP
  • Regaining control of Syria will take "a long time" as civil war marks its fifth year, he says
  • "The battle is going on now on more than 10 fronts at the same time," he adds

(CNN)Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is open to peace negotiations in his country's five-year civil war, but he would continue to battle enemies he deemed terrorists, he told AFP.

"We have fully believed in negotiations and in political action since the beginning of the crisis," Assad said in a transcript of the exclusive interview released Friday by the news agency.
    "However, if we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism. The two tracks are inevitable in Syria: first, through negotiations, and second through fighting terrorism. And the two tracks are separate from each other," he told the outlet in Damascus.
    His comments come during a week in which world powers, including the United States and Russia, agreed to a ceasefire in Syria and to the delivery of immediate aid there.
    The Syrian civil war began in March 2011, and since then, at least 250,000 people have died and 12 million have been displaced, according to the United Nations.
    Assad expressed optimism that he could regain control of his country, but acknowledged it would take "a long time and will incur a heavy price."
    "Regardless of whether we can do that or not, this is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation. It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part," the leader said.
    A Russian-backed offensive in the Syrian town of Aleppo is designed to cut a road to Turkey because "Turkey is the main conduit of supplies for the terrorists," he told AFP. Turkey hosts 2.5 million Syrian refugees, the United Nations said.
    "The battle is going on now on more than 10 fronts at the same time, from north to south, to the east, to the far east, too, and to the west in Latakia. It was going on in Homs, and now it's over. So, all these stages are moving in parallel," he said.
    Assad dismissed genocide accusations made against his regime by a United Nations committee, saying it didn't have any evidence.
    "First, you know that U.N. institutions express balance among the superpowers and the conflict among them. And these organizations are now basically controlled by Western powers. That's why most of their reports are politicized and serve a political agenda," he said.