0704 GMT February 18, 2020
“We have always said and we still say that Idlib battle is basic for ending chaos and terrorism in all the Syrian areas,” Assad told Syrian Army personnel during his first visit to the embattled region since 2011, Press TV wrote.
Idlib remains the only large area in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military — backed by Iran and Russia — managed to undo their gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.
Over the past few days, Syrian troops have been deployed to parts of the country’s north to support the Kurds in the face of a Turkish military offensive, which was launched on October 9 after the US abruptly abandoned its longtime Kurdish allies and withdrew its forces from Syria’s north.
Turkey views the Kurds as terrorists linked to local autonomy-seeking militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The developments prompted the Kurds to reach out to the Syrian government for support, striking an agreement with Syrian troops to enter towns near the border with Turkey.
Lashing out at Ankara, Assad described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “robber,” who has robbed Syrian “factories, wheat and oil,” saying he is now “robbing the land.”
“When we face an aggression or robbery, we should stand by each other ..., but some Syrians haven’t done that, particularly over the first years of the war… We told them not to bet on the abroad, but on the army, the people and the homeland,” he said, referring to the Kurds who had put their trust in the US and relied on its support.
The Syrian president said that Syria's first measure in the face of the Turkish offensive was “to communicate with different political and military forces on the ground, and we said that we are ready to support any group that would resist, and it isn’t a political decision, but a constitutional and national duty, and if we don’t do that, we don’t deserve the homeland.”
In the wake of Turkey’s Syria offensive earlier this month, Assad said Damascus would respond through all legitimate means available in the country's northern areas.