Syria crisis: President Assad gives backing to intensified Russian air attacks

Mr Assad hailed the Russian action and said that the failure of an axis comprising Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq would destabilise the entire region

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The Independent Online

Russia intensified its bombardment of militant targets in Syria on 4 October with attacks in Homs and Idlib provinces, despite the chorus of criticism from Nato countries.

Turkey became the latest member of the alliance to lambast Moscow over its military action in Syria, which, against the wishes of many Western governments, is explicitly designed to shore-up the government of Bashar al-Assad, as well as to diminish Sunni Muslim militants. Speaking before a visit to Paris, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that Ankara was “saddened and perturbed” by Russia’s action, adding that Vladimir Putin was making a “grave mistake” that risked diminishing Russian influence in the Middle East.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview in Damascus broadcast by Khabar TV

Despite the outcry over the attacks – which opponents of the Kremlin say are hitting all of Mr Assad’s opponents, and not just Isis – Russian bombers continued to strike targets. In a detailed update, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that its air force – using precision munitions, it claimed – had hit 10 Isis targets during 20 sorties. Included in the strikes was an explosives manufacturing facility in Idlib province, and four Isis command posts.

Speaking to Iranian television, Mr Assad hailed the Russian action and said that the failure of an axis comprising Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq would destabilise the entire region.

“The chances of success for this coalition are great and not insignificant,” Mr Assad said, as he warned that the price paid by Syria’s allies “will certainly be high”. Calling on Western countries, including Britain, the US and France, to join his coalition, he argued: “If these states join the fight against terrorists in a serious and sincere manner, at least in terms of stopping them getting support, we will achieve results much faster.”

The chances of Nato members aligning with Mr Assad and Mr Putin in co-ordinated action against Isis are slim. However, Angela Merkel yesterday went beyond other Western allies by repeating her demand that the Assad administration had a role to play in Syria’s future.

In an interview with a radio station, the German chancellor said: “To get to a solution, we need both the representatives of the Syrian opposition and those who are currently ruling in Damascus, and others as well, to reach for real successes – and then, above all, also the allies of the respective groups.” 

Washington has recently softened its line on Mr Assad, saying that it was not setting a timetable for his departure.