Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied that Syria’s main military ally, Russia, is making decisions for him, saying it was natural to have differences of opinion between allies.

In an interview with British newspaper The Mail, carried in full by Syrian state news agency SANA on Sunday, Assad commented on claims about Moscow’s control over Syria’s diplomatic and military moves.

“They (the Russians) never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences,” he said, according to SANA’s transcript of the interview, given in English.

Assad stated that “it is natural to have differences between the different parties, whether within our government or other governments; Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments.

“That’s very natural, but at the end, the only decision about what’s going on in Syria and what’s going to happen, it’s a Syrian decision,” he said.

Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that a Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border had caused friction with Iran-backed forces, in what appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting inversely with Assad’s Iran-backed allies.

In the interview, Assad said he expects the war in his country to be over in “less than a year”. He also reiterated his aim to take back “every inch” of Syria.

According to him, the involvement of foreign powers such as Britain, the US and France has been prolonging the conflict.

He also claimed that such interventions had slowed down a resolution to the situation in rebel-held areas of southwestern Syria.

“We were about to achieve reconciliation in the southern part of Syria only two weeks ago, but the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path in order to prolong the Syrian conflict,” Assad said.

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