Assad: Syria will respond to any future Israeli strike
Beleaguered Syrian president agrees 'in principle' to attend next month's Geneva conference, but voices pessimism at chance of results.
Syrian President Bashar Assad says his forces will respond to any future Israeli strike on his country. Assad was speaking in an interview broadcast Thursday on Al-Manar, a television station owned by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, a close ally.
According to foreign news reports, Israel struck near the Syrian capital of Damascus earlier this month. Israeli officials said at the time they were targeting suspected shipments of advanced missiles purportedly intended for Hezbollah.
Asked whether Syria would respond to such strikes, Assad said: "We have told countries that we will respond to any strike with a similar strike." He says that the manner of the response "depends on the circumstance and timing" of the attack.
He also says he agrees 'in principle' to send negotiators to peace talks.
Earlier, Russia, the United States and the United Nations have officially set a date for an international conference aimed at finding a solution to the ongoing civil war in Syria, announcing Thursday that they would be meeting in Geneva on June 5.
"On June 5, in Geneva, a three-party meeting is expected with the participation of representatives from Russia, the United States and the United Nations at which preparations for the international conference on Syria will be discussed," a Russian Foreign Ministry source said on Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency.
Plans for the Geneva conference were announced earlier this month, but the details had not yet been made official. President Bashar Assad had affirmed his intention to attend, though has voiced pessimism at any chance of success.
Meanwhile, Syria's main Western-backed opposition group said it would not participate in peace talks, as long as the regime was carrying out massacres in Syria.
The Syrian National Coalition's announcement came at the end of week-long opposition talks in Istanbul to try and forge a united view on whether to take part in the peace conference next month.
A spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, Khalid Saleh, says an "international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place."
Russia's announcement regarding the Geneva conference comes just two days after it confirmed plans to send S-300 air defense missiles to Syria, and after the European Union lifted its arms embargo on the opposition.
Assad told Al-Manar in the interview Thursday that the first batch of missiles had already arrived, and that his government was waiting for a second shipment.