BEIRUT - Damascus receives “information” about air strikes by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Tuesday.
“Sometimes, they convey a message, a general message,” he said in an interview with the BBC in Damascus. “There is no dialogue. There’s, let’s say, information, but not dialogue. “There’s no direct cooperation,” he added, saying the messages came to Damascus through third parties. “More than one party, Iraq and other countries. Sometimes they convey messages, general messages. But there’s nothing tactical,” he said.
Damascus has grudgingly accepted the strikes against IS on its territory that began on September 23 last year, but has repeatedly criticised the coalition for failing to coordinate with it. It says the raids cannot defeat IS unless the international community starts cooperating with Syrian troops on the ground. Assad said the US-led strikes had the potential to help his government if they were “more serious.” “Yes, it will have some benefits, but if it was more serious and more effective and more efficient. It’s not that much.”
Washington has ruled out cooperating with Assad’s government against IS, and the Syrian leader said Damascus had no interest in joining the coalition. “No, definitely we cannot and we don’t have the will and we don’t want, for one simple reason - because we cannot be in an alliance with countries which support terrorism.”
The comment appeared to be a reference to coalition support for other rebels groups fighting to overthrow him, all of which his government derides as “terrorists”.
Assad said US officials “easily trample over international law, which is about our sovereignty now, so they don’t talk to us, we don’t talk to them.” More than 210,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates resumed air strikes on Tuesday against the Islamic State group which it had suspended after the militants captured a Jordanian pilot in December, the military said.
“Aircraft of the F-16 squadron based in Jordan launched raids this morning against positions of the Daesh (IS) terrorist organisation, hitting their targets and returning safely to base,” the UAE armed forces command said.
Jordan and the UAE are part of the US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS since last year.
The squadron deployed to Jordan on Sunday to boost the kingdom’s fight against IS after the militants brutally murdered the captured pilot.
C-17 transporters and refuelling planes were also sent on the orders of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan as a show of solidarity.
“The initiative... reaffirms the UAE’s unwavering and constant solidarity with Jordan and its leading role and immense sacrifices for the security and stability of the region as embodied by martyr and hero Maaz al-Kassasbeh,” the UAE state news agency WAM said on Sunday.
Kassasbeh is the Jordanian pilot captured by IS when his plane crashed over northern Syria in December. The militants later burned him alive.
Following Kassasbeh’s murder, the UAE withdrew from the coalition’s strike missions over fears for the safety of its pilots.