Assad to Parliament: Syrian Reforms Moving Forward

Syrian president in address to parliament says country’s unrest has taken bloody toll but defends government’s actions.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is addressing the country’s parliament for the first time since last month’s parliamentary elections.

Assad’s rare public speech on Sunday came with Damascus facing mounting diplomatic isolation over its handling of a deadly crackdown on more-than-year-long anti-government protests.

“Our country will recover and our citizens will enjoy peace, stability and sovereignty,” Assad said in his opening remarks.

He said Syria had implemented clear steps towards introducing political reforms in the country and held parliamentary elections on time, despite violence in the country.

He said the staging of the ballot had been a “clear message to the murderers, their lords and financiers… and those who wanted Syria to sink in the blood of its citizens”.

“The political process is moving forward, yet terrorism is not going down,” Assad said. “Terrorists are not interested in dialogue or reform.”

Damascus has accused armed groups of sowing unrest in the country, but anti-government activists and their international supporters say Syrian security forces have carried out a brutal crackdown in which thousands have died.

Assad admitted the country’s unrest had taken a “bloody toll” and exhausted assets, but said outside forces were responsible.

“Terrorism has undermined us all,” he said. “It is a real war waged from outside and dealing with a war is different to dealing with the grievances of Syrian citizens.”, according to Al Jazeera.

His speech comes a day after Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, said that the country was slipping into all-out war.

“The specter of an all-out war, with an alarming sectarian dimension, grows by the day,” Annan, told an Arab League meeting in Qatar.