BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urged states fighting terrorism to share intelligence, Syrian state media reported on Wednesday, saying European policies were responsible for attacks by Islamist gunmen in France last week.
Condemning the Paris attacks, Assad accused Western policymakers of being short sighted - criticism of their policy of support for the 2011 Syrian uprising that descended into an insurgency dominated by hardline Islamist militants.
Around a third of Syria is now held by Islamic State, which shares the hardline Sunni Islamist vision of the gunmen who mounted last week’s attacks in France.
Western states including France have rejected past offers from the Syrian government to be part of the fight against the Islamic State group that has been targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in Syria since September.
“There should be ... an exchange of information between the countries concerned with fighting terrorism,” Assad said in excerpts of an interview with a Czech monthly magazine published by Syrian state media.
The Syrian government sees all armed opposition factions as terrorist groups. Assad said his country had been suffering from terrorism for four years. “We feel sympathy with the families of those victims,” he said, referring to the attacks in France.
“We told the West: ‘You cannot support terrorism and provide a political umbrella for it because that will reflect on your countries and nations,’” Assad said in the interview the magazine, Literarni Noviny Newspaper.
“We want to remind many in the West that we were talking about these consequences since the start of the crisis in Syria,” he said.
The Syrian government said last week the attacks in France showed the rising danger of the kind of Islamist militancy espoused by the groups fighting in the Syrian conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed 200,000 people.
The Syrian government, which is backed by Russia and Iran, had said it was ready to join international efforts to fight Islamic State. But French President Francois Hollande said last year Assad was no ally in that fight, echoing the U.S. position. France has said it has provided weapons to non-jihadist opposition groups in Syria.
Assad said European policies were “responsible for what happened in our region and recently in France”.
Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Larry King and Dominic Evans