President Bashar Assad rejected the creation of safe zones for refugees and displaced people in Syria, an idea supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a transcript from an interview with Yahoo News released Friday.
He signaled he would welcome cooperation with Washington in the fight against ISIS, however, as long as the United States took a "clear political position" on Syria's sovereignty and unity.
Assad has cautiously welcomed the new U.S. administration's focus on fighting the extremists, in which Trump has held out the possibility of cooperation with Damascus ally Russia.
Under former U.S. President Barack Obama, the United States called for Assad's departure and supported rebels fighting to unseat him.
The Syrian government has rejected the creation of safe zones, favored by rebel backers including Qatar, which could ratchet up U.S. military involvement in Syria.
"It's not a realistic idea at all," Assad said in the transcript. "This is where you can have natural safe zones, which is our country. They don't need safe zones at all."
"It's much more viable, much more practical and less costly to have stability than to create safe zones."
Assad said safe zones would be at risk of attack from armed groups.
The United Nations also rejects safe zones, saying conditions in Syria, where battles rage on between multiple sides, are not suitable.
Trump has not provided details about the proposed safe zones, except to say he would have the Gulf states pay for them.
Much of the conflict is focused on a number of separate battles being waged against ISIS: by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and their allies, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, and Turkish-backed Syrian insurgents.
The United States has deployed special forces to Syria to support the Kurdish YPG militia and its allies, and not in coordination with the Syrian army.
Source: National News Agency