Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday rejected President Trump’s calls for “safe zones” within his nation.
“[It’s] not a realistic idea at all,” he told Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff during his first interview since Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. "But actually, it won’t [protect civilians], it won’t.”
“Safe zones for the Syrians can only happen when you have stability and security, where you don’t have terrorists, where you don’t have [the] flow and support of those terrorists by the neighboring countries or by Western countries,” Assad added.
Assad then explained why he opposes safe zones for Syria’s citizens, considering nearly half have been displaced by Syria’s ongoing civil war.
“They were displaced for two reasons: first of all, the terrorist acts and the support from the outside,” he said. "Second, the [U.S.] embargo on Syria. Many people didn’t only leave Syria because of the security issues.”
“But they don’t find a way of life in Syria, so they have to travel abroad in order to find their living,” Assad added of displaced Syrians. "If you stop all these acts, most of the people will go back to their country.”
Trump pledged during a Jan. 25 interview with ABC News he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people” displaced by its civil war.
The president then spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Jan. 29, getting the foreign leader to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, which is dealing with similar local strife.
Trump issued an executive order late last month imposing a 90-day ban on travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority nations.
The measure also froze general refugee admissions into the U.S. for 120 days, indefinitely pausing Syrian refugees due to Syria’s civil war.