MOSCOW (AP) — A military victory in Aleppo would provide the Syrian army a springboard from which to liberate other areas of the country from "terrorists," President Bashar Assad said in an interview with a Russian media outlet.
In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda released Thursday, Assad said Aleppo is effectively no longer Syria's industrial capital but taking back the city would provide important political and strategic gains for his regime.
"It's going to be the springboard, as a big city, to move to other areas, to liberate other areas from the terrorists. This is the importance of Aleppo now," Assad said. "You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey to go back to where they come from, or to kill them. There's no other option. But Aleppo is going to be a very important springboard to do this move."
Syrian government forces have encircled the eastern half of Aleppo, besieging over a quarter of a million people who they say are being used as human shields by "terrorists." The siege has caused an international outcry with a number of countries and groups accusing Syria and Russia of war crimes in connection with attacks on medical facilities and aid convoys.
Assad also said that Saudi Arabia has offered to help his government if it agrees to cut ties with Iran, one of Syria's main allies.
He said the Saudis told him: "If you move away from Iran and you announce that you disconnect all kinds of relations with Iran, we're going to help you. Very simple and very straight to the point."