Syria's Assad says to keep fighting as peace talks proceed: AFP

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad answers questions during an interview with al-Manar's journalist Amro Nassef, in Damascus, Syria, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA on August 25, 2015. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) - 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.

The agreement did not however include a halt to Russian air strikes which have been helping Assad and allied forces wage an intensifying offensive to retake the northern city of Aleppo and surrounding area.

In the interview, Assad also said that the purpose of the battle for Aleppo was to cut the route north to Turkey.

Assad said that the country’s “problem” could be solved in less than a year if opposition supply routes from Turkey, Jordan and Iraq were cut, AFP reported.

Over the past two weeks, the Russian-backed Syrian army offensive has succeeded in cutting off the main supply route from rebel held areas of Aleppo to the Turkish border.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey back rebel forces fighting in the five-year-old Syrian conflict.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Louise Ireland