During a meeting in Damascus on Monday with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walid Muallem, and various diplomats, President Bashar al-Assad announced that the primary effort should of the government will be the reconstruction of the nation and its infrastructure. President Assad stated that, “Reconstruction is the top priority in Syria, backed up by the continued fight against terrorism,” in the wake of a civil war that has been going strong for the past seven years. The war in Syria started in 2011 when mass protests against the regime broke out into fighting between militia groups and government forces.

The civil war paired with the Islamic State conflict has destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure. Everything from water and electrical networks to hospitals and schools have been severely damaged. Civilian life under the regime is difficult, and many of the essential institutions have suffered during the clashing. It has been estimated by the World Bank that in total Syria has accumulated $226 billion in damages, which altogether equates to four times the national gross domestic product before the civil war.

While many Western nations would like to contribute to reconstruction efforts in Syria, none will contribute until the Syrian government officially moves away from the Assad regime. On top of that, the Syrian president claims they will refuse Western contributions despite the reconstruction efforts being estimated at costing upward of $200 billion. President Assad has stated that the West, “won’t be part of reconstruction in Syria, because very simply we won’t allow them to be part of it, whether they come with money or not.”

President Assad addressed the nation on Monday, saying that the government planned to focus on the reintegration of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) who fell victim to “terrorism” while amending legislature and restoring the halted political process. In total, nearly five million Syrian people have fled to other nations to escape the war, while another six million have become IDPs.

Featured image: Russian president Vladimir Putin meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. | Kremlin.ru