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Assad vows to keep 'fighting terrorism' and retake Syria

In a television interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised to continue fighting while negotiating an end to the war. His comments have called into question the viability of the Munich ceasefire agreement.

In a rare interview - this time with the AFP news agency - released on Friday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he will continue fighting despite mounting international pressure for a ceasefire.

"We have fully believed in negotiations and in political action since the beginning of the crisis. However, if we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism," Assad said in the interview which was recorded on Thursday in Damascus, ahead of the start of the Munich Security Conference on Friday.

"It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part," he said, emphasizing his wish to recapture the whole country. "Regardless of whether we can do that or not, this is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation."

Assad said the main goal of the Russian-backed-regime offensive in Aleppo was to cut off the rebel forces' supply route from Turkey. The battle has prompted tens of thousands of people to flee to Syria's border with Turkey.

In the interview, Assad said it would be possible to "put an end to this problem in less than a year" if opposition supply routes from Turkey, Jordan and Iraq were severed. But if not, he said, "the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price".

On Friday, World powers agreed on a broad, ambitious plan to cease hostilities in Syria within one week. Doubts quickly arose, however, since the agreement will not halt Russian air strikes which have been aiding Assad's offensive actions.

NATO stance

"So far Russia has mainly targeted opposition groups and not ISIL (IS) and intense air strikes against different opposition groups in Syria have actually undermined efforts to reach a negotiated peaceful resolution," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said while attending the Munich Security Conference on Friday.

"We need a lasting ceasefire, we need help to the civilians, we need a political negotiated solution," Stoltenberg said.

Watch video 02:01

Could the Syria truce deal work? - DW correspondent Michaela Küfner at the Munich Security Conference

rs/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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