DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says his top priority is the reconstruction of his country, which has been gripped by foreign-backed terrorism since March 2011.
"Reconstruction is the top priority in Syria, backed up by the continued fight against terrorism," Assad said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and other Syrian diplomats in Damascus.
The years-long terrorism has badly damaged the country's infrastructure, including electricity and water systems, schools and hospitals, and other institutions needed for daily civilian life.
In 2017, the World Bank estimated the cost of war-related losses in Syria at $226 billion.
Assad, who has estimated rebuilding would cost $200 billion at the very least, has insisted he would refuse Western contributions.
In an interview in June with Russia's NTV network, Assad said the West "won't be part of reconstruction in Syria, because very simply we won't allow them to be part of it, whether they come with money or not."
Assad also said in the same interview that Syria would not accept any Western money to help rebuild the country. "We have enough strength to rebuild the country. If we don’t have money, we will borrow from our friends, from Syrians living abroad.”
The Syrian leader has also stressed that he does not think it is worth pursuing negotiations with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to reach an understanding over the crisis in his country.
The U.S. and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.
The strikes have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.
On the other hand, the Zionist regime held out the prospect on Tuesday of eventual contacts with Syria under President Bashar al-Assad, in a nod to his consolidating advances in a seven-year-old war that Zionist officials had initially predicted would topple him.
Assad’s Russia-backed forces have advanced in southwest Syria and are on course to reach Quneitra, a terrorist-held district abutting the Golan Heights frontier with the Zionist regime. That has stirred the regime’s concern that he may try to deploy troops there in defiance of a 1974 UN demilitarization accord on the Golan.
Bashar al-Assad says rebuilding Syria after foreign-backed war remains a 'top priority.'