Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets professors and
students of political science at a college in Damascus.
President Bashar al-Assad says Syria's three-year
conflict is at a "turning point" due to his forces' military
gains against rebels.
Assad's allies have portrayed him as confident and in control
and they expect him to run for and win a presidential
election in July - a turnaround from last year when he looked
on the verge of defeat as rebels advanced towards Damascus,
struck in the heart of the capital and took control of key
Addressing graduate students and staff of the political
science department in Damascus University: "(Assad) pointed
out that there is a turning point in the crisis in Syria in
terms of the continuous military achievements ... by the army
and armed forces in the war against terror and in ... terms
of national reconciliation," state news agency SANA reported.
In recent months, government forces, backed by Lebanon's
Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah fighters, recaptured several
rebel-held areas and border towns, closing off rebel supply
routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading
north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs and the
The government has also struck localised truces in districts
in and around Damascus, ending sieges on rebel-held areas,
many of which lasted for more than a year, causing severe
hunger and death.
Assad is preparing to run for a third term in an election
expected in July which international powers that back the
rebels have described as a "parody of democracy".
Last week, a former Russian prime minister quoted Assad as
saying that he expected much of the fighting to be over by
the end of the year. On the same day, the leader of Hezbollah
was quoted as saying that the president no longer faced a
threat of being overthrown.
The civil war, which started as a peaceful protest movement,
has killed over 150,000 people, forced millions more from
their homes, and seen the government lose control of swathes
of northern and eastern Syria to Islamist rebels and foreign
Assad has used tanks and warplanes to attack rebel-held areas
and his opponents have accused him of using poison gas to
force civilians in rebel-held territories to submission.
On Sunday, opposition activists said at least 20 people were
killed when warplanes attacked Douma, a town near Damascus. A
day earlier, rebels and the government blamed each other for
an alleged poison gas attack on Kfar Zeita village in the
central province of Hama that they said wounded scores of
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told
ABC's "This Week" that the attack was so far
"But we've shown, I think, in the past, that we will do
everything in our power to establish what has happened and
then consider possible steps in response."