Assad predicts final victory in nine-year Syria conflict

Syrian President Bashar Assad said he expected to secure a final victory against the remains of opposition forces in his country.

The Syrian army, backed by Russia, has made rapid gains in an offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib, where the last vestiges of the opposition, led by Islamist fighters backed by Turkey, are attempting to hold out against months of bombardments and shelling. 

Assad made the statement in an appearance on state-run television on Monday, according to Reuters.

“We know this liberation does not mean the end of the war, or the crushing of all plots, or the end of terror, or the surrender of the enemy, but it definitely rubs their noses in the dirt,” Assad said.

“This is a prelude to their (opposition forces’) final defeat, sooner or later,” he said.

Assad’s army, also backed by Iranian militia, has taken control of many rural areas near the major city of Aleppo, advanced into densely populated areas of Idlib and seized a key highway. The offensive has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee towards the Turkish border.

The Syrian president spoke as Russian and Turkish officials held talks on the conflict in Moscow. Turkey, which Russia accuses of failing to rein in extreme Islamist groups in Idlib, is hoping that the negotiations will secure a ceasefire.

The Turkish and Syrian armies have clashed in Idlib in recent weeks, resulting in the deaths of 13 Turkish soldiers and, Turkey says, many more Syrian troops. Turkey keeps military observation posts in the area and has sent reinforcements across the border in an effort to prevent an Assad victory.