Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said European foreign policies were responsible for attacks by Islamist gunmen in France last week, Syrian state media reported on Wednesday, urging states fighting terrorism to share intelligence.
Condemning the Paris attacks, Assad accused Western policymakers of being short sighted — criticism of their policy of support for the 2011 Syrian uprising, which has now been overshadowed by the surge of hardline Islamist militants in the country.
Large areas of Syria have fallen in the hands of Islamists, including a powerful al-Qaeda offshoot known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that has also seized swathes of Iraq.
Western states including France rejected past offers from the Syrian government to be part of the fight against ISIS, which has been targeted by US-led airstrikes since September.
“There should be … an exchange of information between the countries concerned with fighting terrorism,” Assad said in an interview with a Czech monthly magazine published by Syrian state media.
Assad said his country had been suffering from “terrorism” — a term the Syrian governments uses to refer to both extremist groups and other armed opposition groups — for four years.
“We feel sympathy with the families of those victims,” he said, referring to the attacks in France.
On January 7, Cherif and Said Kouachi targeted the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine known for its controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammad. They killed 12, including a police officer. The two French brothers were killed two days later by French security forces after an extended manhunt.
On January 9, Amedy Coulibaly, who was linked to the Kouachi brothers and is believed to have also killed a police officer on January 7, held people hostage in a kosher supermarket, where he killed four people before being killed himself by security forces.
“We told the West: ‘You cannot support terrorism and provide a political umbrella for it because that will reflect on your countries and nations,'” Assad said in the interview with Literarni Noviny.
“We want to remind many in the West that we were talking about these consequences since the start of the crisis in Syria,” he said.
Assad claimed European policies were “responsible for what happened in our region and recently in France.”
The Syrian government said last week the attacks in France showed the rising danger of the kind of Islamist militancy espoused by some groups fighting in the Syrian conflict. The United Nations estimates the Syrian conflict has killed 200,000 people.
Speaking to Press TV, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari said that “France, today, is paying the price of its unprofessional politics with regard [to] the Syrian crisis.”
“We have repeatedly said and warned the French government about working with the terrorists, about manipulating the terrorists. And we told them ‘one day it will return to you,” Jaafari said.
He cited former French interior minister and current Prime Minister Manuel Valls as saying in 2013, “I cannot as a minister of interior prevent the French jihadists from going to Syria to fulfill their jihad.”
“The French Minister of Foreign Affairs [Laurent] Fabius said something worse in 2012. He said that the Islamist jihadists are doing well in Syria,” Jaafari added. “These ‘jihadists’ are now referred to as ‘terrorists’ after having killed French people.”
The Syrian government, which is backed by Russia and Iran, had said it was ready to join international efforts to fight ISIS. But French President Francois Hollande said last year Assad was no ally in that fight.
In an interview with Paris Match in December, Assad said Damascus was always willing to work with any French government if it was in their common interests but said Hollande’s administration was working against the interests of both the Syrian and French people.
“I am neither a personal enemy nor rival of Hollande. I think that Daesh is his rival, their popularity is very much the same,” Assad said using an alternative name for ISIS, in what appeared a reference to Hollande’s low popularity ratings.
France has said it has provided weapons to so-called moderate opposition groups in Syria.
Damascus, Iran and other critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Western and Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.
A report by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists in Syria as well appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the so-called moderate rebels by Saudi Arabia.
Syria’s Assad: France Paying Price for its Foreign Policy | Al Akhbar English.