BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a visiting group of European parliamentarians on Sunday that western governments’ support for opposition groups in Syria caused terrorism in Europe.
“The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people,” Assad told a delegation of members of the European Parliament headed by Javier Couso, vice chairman of its foreign affairs committee.
“Especially when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria,” Syrian state news agency SANA said in a summary of Assad’s comments.
The Syrian government, supported by Iran and Russia, refers to all groups fighting it in the five-year-old conflict as terrorists. Of such groups, the U.N. classifies only Islamic State and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front as terrorist.
A range of countries provide financial, logistical and training support to the many armed opposition groups in Syria, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Western and Gulf Arab countries which want Assad out of power blame him for the displacement of tens of thousands of Syrians, through air strikes on rebel-held areas that have killed thousands.
Opposition groups accuse the government of deliberately targeting civilians and breaching ceasefires. United Nations-brokered peace talks broke down in late April as violence escalated, without a set date to resume.
Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; editing by Andrew Roche