Syrian President Bashar al-Assad thanked Russia, Iran, and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militias on Sunday for helping his army make gains against rebel groups and the Islamic State, saying their "direct support — politically, economically, and militarily — has made possible bigger advances on the battlefield and reduced the losses and burdens of war."
Assad made his remarks during a televised address to the country, which is still in the midst of a six-and-a-half-year-old civil war. He said there had been several plans by the West to remove him from the presidency, yet none had come to fruition, and revealed that the army will launch an offensive in Syrian deserts, in conjunction with Russian planes and Iranian-funded militias, to root out ISIS militants.
Assad also said Syria has "an interest in the success of" ceasefire deals brokered by Russia, adding that "the idea of these de-escalation zones is to stop the bloodletting ... and the eviction of the armed groups handing over their weapons and the return of normalcy." Several rebel groups have accused Assad of violating truces, including in the suburbs of Damascus, where witnesses say the army bombs residential areas that are held by the rebels, Reuters reports.