Islamic State militants will only be defeated if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power and this goal will ultimately be achieved, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said on Friday. Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Adel al-Jubeir called Assad the "single most effective magnet for extremists and terrorists in the region" and said his removal was crucial for restoring stability. "Unless and until there is a change in Syria, Daesh will not be defeated in Syria, period," he added, using the Arab name for Islamic State.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he would keep "fighting terrorism" while peace talks took place and saw a risk of Saudi and Turkish intervention in the Syrian conflict, according to an interview with news agency AFP published on Friday. Assad said he would retake the whole country, but that this could take a long time, according to excerpts of the interview published on AFP's website. The interview, which AFP said was Assad's first in about two months, took place in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Thursday before the conclusion of talks in Munich where major powers agreed to a ceasefire in Syria to begin in a week.
Countries backing the U.S.- and Russian-led plan for a cessation of hostilities in Syria have requested access to besieged towns and expect approval from the warring parties without delay, the group's chairman Jan Egeland said on Friday. The "Task Force on Humanitarian Access in Syria" met at the United Nations in Geneva less than 24 hours after it was set up by major and regional powers meeting in Munich. "We have already submitted requests for access to the parties surrounding besieged areas,” Egeland said in a statement.