Syria’s embattled President Bashar Al-Assad has said that his government has firmly dug in its heels to dislodge the armed opposition, which was on the defensive but had not yet been fully defeated.

In an interview with Syrian Al-Dunia TV channel, Mr. Assad said: “I can summarise in one phrase: we are progressing, the situation on the ground is better but we have not yet won — this will take more time.”

Mr. Assad said the Syrian troops were engaged in a long haul as regional and international forces were embedded in the Syrian crisis.

The Syrian foreign minister Walled al-Muallem appeared to elaborate on his President’s perception. In an interview with The Independent. Mr. Muallem estimated that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were exporting 60 per cent of the violence that Syria was experiencing under the overall influence of the United States.

Mr. Assad also rejected the advocacy by Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu of establishing a buffer zone inside Syrian territory.

where refugees fleeing the fighting could be accommodated. Mr. Davutoglu had said on August 20 that if “the number of refugees in Turkey surpasses 100,000; we will run out of space to accommodate them. We should be able to accommodate them in Syria.”

But in his interview, the Syrian President retorted: “Will we go backwards because of the ignorance of some Turkish officials?”

The President’s interview appeared timed with a diplomatic offensive launched by Syria to defuse its crisis through an internally-driven process. Ahead of the summit of the Non Aligned countries that was being hosted in Tehran, Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa declared that exclusion of Iran in international efforts to end his country’s internal conflict was a “clear mistake”.

The former foreign minister exhorted Western countries in the U.N. Security Council to “help the Syrian government and the opposition to engage in a national dialogue,” in tune with the plan laid out by former U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

Syrian officials acknowledge that the Syrian crisis started with “legitimate demands”, but the peaceful movement was subsequently hijacked by “foreign elements”.

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