Assad: Trump's Travel Ban Targets Terrorists, Not Syria's People

"The West can not choose what is better for Syria: I or the Islamic State (terrorist group outlawed in Russia)".

"He is against terrorists, who might infiltrate among some Western immigrants".

This did not stop Syria's contested dictator from telling French channel TF1 on Tuesday that Trump's travel ban is "not against the Syrian people".

Assad has often criticized Western governments for supporting Syrian rebel groups fighting against his regime forces.

Mr Assad's ally, Russia, has been the driving force behind those with support from Iran and Turkey, despite the latter backing Syrian rebels.

Assad last week rejected Trump's plan to establish "safe zones" for civilians in Syria, saying that could only happen "when you have stability and security".

Also on Wednesday, President Assad said taking any step pertaining to Syria's future is up to the Syrian people, Syria's official news agency SANA reported. The president has vowed to fight until he regains control of "every inch" of the country.

Assad said Amnesty's "childish report" contained "not a single fact (or) evidence" to support allegations that some 13,000 people were hanged at the Saydnaya prison between 2011 and 2015. "So it's biased", the president said.

"We don't do this, it's not our policy". To get information? We have all the information.

Syrian rebels had threatened to boycott the Astana talks, accusing Russian Federation of failing to get Damascus to comply fully with a ceasefire or take any confidence-building steps.

Disputes over the agenda have helped to torpedo previous rounds of Syria peace talks.

"Russia's support is necessary to weaken the terrorists in Syria".

One of the sources also said that the sides hoped that talks on Thursday would produce a joint document.

"I would like to say that work is progressing well, there are of course some difficulties but they can be overcome", he said without elaborating.

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura called Thursday for greater efforts in the push for peace in Syria.

A new round of UN-backed negotiations is due to begin in Geneva where the main Syrian opposition body wants to be face-to-face with the Damascus government.

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  • Elsie Buchanan