Syria's Assad: Rebel war going government's way
President Bashar al-Assad has asserted that Syria's three-year conflict was at a "turning point" due to his forces' military gains against rebels, state media said.
Assad's allies have portrayed him as confident and in control and they expect him to run for and win a presidential election in July - a turnaround from last year when he looked on the verge of defeat as rebels advanced towards Damascus, struck in the heart of the capital and took control of key areas.
Addressing graduate students and staff of the political science department in Damascus University: "(Assad) pointed out that there is a turning point in the crisis in Syria in terms of the continuous military achievements ... by the army and armed forces in the war against terror and in ... terms of national reconciliation," state news agency SANA reported.
In recent months, government forces, backed by Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah fighters, recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns, closing off rebel supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean.
The government has also struck localised truces in districts in and around Damascus, ending sieges on rebel-held areas, many of which lasted for more than a year, causing severe hunger and death.