Addressing staff and students at Damascus University on Sunday, President Assad said he was leading the Arab world by resisting “the colonial aggression targeting Syria”.

Assad claimed leadership of an ideology linking “Arabism” and Islam — “Adherence to this principle one of the most important factors for restoring intellectual and social security to Arab societies” — and said the “West” was trying to eliminate or “alter the essence” of the ideology.

Throughout the conflict, Assad has invoked a key Syrian position in the Arab world, declaring that countries supporting the insurgency — namely Saudi Arabia — have betrayed the Arab peoples.

On Sunday, the President also invoked “the emergence of the Israeli factor that has a major role in backing terrorist groups”.

However, Assad assured that his forces were now taking Syria “through a turning point” with their “continuous achievements…in the war against terrorism”, and that social victory was being achieved through “national reconciliations and a growing popular awareness of the aggression’s goals”.