Assad Says Trump's Travel Ban Targets Terrorists, Not Syrians
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said President Donald Trump's ban on Syrians entering the United States targeted terrorists, not the Syrian people, appearing to defend the logic of the measure in an interview.
Trump last month issued an executive order, since suspended by a U.S. district judge, that temporarily barred travellers from seven countries including Syria, as well as imposing an indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees.
"It's against the terrorists that could infiltrate some of the immigrants to the West, and that happened. It happened in Europe, mainly in Germany, and it could happen in the United States," Assad said in the interview with Europe 1 radio and TF1 television which was recorded on Tuesday (February 14) in Damascus.
Trump said his order, which triggered worldwide protests and caused confusion at U.S. and international airports, was intended to prevent militants from entering the United States. His administration is challenging the suspension ruling, which was upheld last week by appeal court judges.
Assad's government has often criticized Western states for their support for Syrian rebel groups, all of which are regarded by Damascus as terrorists, and has warned that such backing will lead to militant attacks around the world.
Trump has not yet set out a clear policy on Syria but has indicated he could cut U.S. support for insurgent groups and has said he wants to mend ties with Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin is Assad's strongest international ally.
Asked directly whether Trump's immigration policy was the right one, Assad did not answer. He also said he had not yet seen what Trump's Syria policy would be.
The Syrian leader also dismissed a report by Amnesty International which said up to 13,000 prisoners had been executed at a military jail in Damascus since 2011.