Assad: Iran is sending arms to Syria
The embattled president still denied any physical Iranian troops in Syria during his interview
In an interview with Russian media, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that Iran has sent Syria with military equipment and provided it with expertise since a civil war first broke out in 2011.
"Iran supports Syria and the Syrian people. It stands with the Syrian state politically, economically and militarily," he said.
Assad said that Tehran's support was also essential for his regime in Syria's conflict, which has cost more than 240,000 lives since 2011.
"When we say militarily, it doesn't mean - as claimed by some in the Western media - that Iran has sent an army or armed forces to Syria. That is not true," said Assad.
Syria was the only Arab state to side with the Islamic republic during its 1980-1988 war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Iranian media run regular reports on fighters killed in the Syrian conflict described as volunteers helping to defend Shiite holy sites in the country.
“Crying for refugees”
In the interview with Russian media, considered by many as a staunch ally to Damascus, said the West is "crying" for refugees flooding into Europe but its support for "terrorists" in his country lies at the roots of the crisis.
"Those refugees left Syria because of the terrorism, mainly because of the terrorists and because of the killing, and second because of the results of terrorism," said the embattled leader.
"When you have terrorism, and you have the destruction of the infrastructure, you won't have the basic needs of living," Assad said, according to a transcript made available on Wednesday.
Syria's government labels all those involved in the anti-Assad uprising and ensuing civil war as "terrorists", including Western-backed rebels.
Ready to work with Gulf
Assad also said that Syria is ready to collaborate once again with Turkey, Gulf countries and the U.S. among others, once such countries stop what he described as “supporting and shielding as terrorist groups” and shift their focus on fighting them.
“First, it’s not a personal relation; it’s a relation between states, and when you talk about relation between states, you don’t talk about trust; you talk about mechanism,” Assad said.
“If any meeting or any handshaking with anyone in the world will bring benefit to the Syrian people, I have to do it, whether I like it or not. So, it’s not about me, I accept it or I like it or whatever; it’s about what the added value of this step that you’re going to take. So yes, we are ready whenever there’s the interest of the Syrians. I will do it, whatever it is.”