BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria’s prime minister said on Sunday the country wanted to drive all insurgents out of its territory in 2015 and was prepared to back any attempts to fight global militancy.
Speaking in parliament, Wael al-Halqi said Syria’s main aim was to “flush out all terrorists from its land” this year and it would “back any initiatives to fight global terrorism,” a broadcast on state television showed.
He said Syria would not allow its enemies “to destroy the land of religions and cradle of civilizations” and praised the army for its efforts.
Syria has repeatedly said it wants to coordinate with other countries to fight armed groups in its country. It describes all anti-government forces in Syria as terrorists, unlike Western countries and their Arab allies who distinguish between the hardline jihadists and more mainstream rebel fighters.
Syria’s uprising started in 2011 with anti-government protests and has descended into a civil war pitting a range of armed groups against the military. Hardline groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda’s Nusra Front have gained ground.
U.S-led forces started an airstrike campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq last year when the militant group captured tracts of land in both countries.
President Bashar al-Assad said in a magazine interview published last week that U.S.-led air strikes should be subject to an agreement with Damascus and Syrian troops should be involved on the ground.
Washington supports opposition forces fighting for the past four years to topple Assad, but its position has become complicated since Islamic State and other hardline groups emerged as the most powerful insurgent factions. But it has rejected the idea of allying itself with the Syrian government despite them now having a common enemy.
Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Angus MacSwan