Charm offensive? Assad visits church in Damascus

Charm offensive? Assad visits church in Damascus

Saturday, December 19, 2015 12:56 am


Assad and his wife Asma at a Damascus Church

Assad and his wife Asma at a Damascus Church

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to a Damascus church on Friday evening, where a famous choir was rehearsing for the holiday seasons.

Coming along with his wife Asma, Assad appeared in the Saidet Dimashq Church in the predominantly-Christian neighborhood of Qasa’a, while the Joy Choir was rehearsing Christmas carols.

The Presidential Media Office released photos of the president’s visit to the church, showing him in a dark coat beside his wife, who was in gray coat with a red neck scarf taking photos with the choir’s members and other visitors of the church.

A photo showed Assad posing for a selfie with one of the choir members.

The visit apparently aimed to show confidence as the Qasa’a neighborhood is close to the rebel bastion of Jobar, where most of the mortars that hit the capital are fired from. The move also shows support to the Christian minority in Syria, especially during the holiday season.

The Assad’s administration has for long portrayed itself as a protector of the minority groups in Syria in the face of the wave of jihadi groups and ultra-radical militants, such as the Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

Assad’s rare visit to the church comes as world powers in New York  agreed on a road map for peace in the war torn country..

The five permanent member states of the UN Security Council agreed Friday on the text of a draft UN resolution that includes a request for the United Nations to bring together the Syrian government and the opposition for talks by early January and the establishment of a ceasefire in parallel with the talks.

Analysts in Damascus said the New York meeting comes to stress the new U.S.-Russian understanding and crown the agreement reached in Vienna last month which outlined the parameters of a political plan for the war-torn country.

In November in Vienna, 19 countries, including Syria’s allies Russia and Iran, set a target of the first of January for the start of dialogue between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition forces.

The Vienna meeting also saw a UN statement calling for a ceasefire to be established on 14 May 2016 and for free elections to be held a year later.

World powers also agreed in Vienna on the need to strongly hit the IS and quickly solve the Syrian crisis to contain terrorism repercussions in the region and the rest of the world.

In a TV interview on Friday, Assad said “if the responsible countries take actions against the flood and the flowing of terrorists and the logistic support, I can guarantee that it (defeating terrorism) will take less than one year.”

However, “the problem is that they (rebels backers) are still supporting them on daily basis,” Assad said, and “changing of this state, getting rid of this president or depose him” is the crisis will drag on.

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