DAMASCUS – President Bashar Assad of Syria will leave office “whenever the Syrian people don’t want me,” he told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview in Damascus.
Assad, whose country has been racked by a civil war that has created nearly 5 million refugees, was elected in 2014 to a seven-year term (his third) with nearly 90 percent of the vote. The election, which was held only in government-controlled areas, was widely denounced as a farce.
Assad’s willingness to step down was contingent on first “defeating the terrorists” and establishing a “national unity government” after “dialogue between the Syrians about the future of Syria.” He added that there would need to be a “public consensus” on his leaving.
Asked how he would know if there was such a consensus, he said it was something “you can sense, you can feel … and then if you want to do something documented, you can have [a] referendum.”
As with all interviews granted by Assad, this interview was filmed by his presidential press office. No editorial changes were made to the content.
Read more from the Yahoo News Exclusive interview with Syrian President Assad:
- Exclusive: Confronted w/ report on Syria mass killings, Assad calls it ‘fake news’
- Exclusive: Syria’s Assad rejects Trump’s call for ‘safe zones’
- Exclusive: Syria’s president said he would ‘welcome’ American troops into his country to fight ISIS
- Exclusive: Assad is confronted with photos of his torture victims