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Syria has accused the European Union of acting in partnership with "terrorists, including ISIS [another name for the Islamic State group] and Jabhat Al-Nusra."

The comments by Syria's Foreign Ministry on October 23 come in response to a recent decision by the EU to tighten sanctions against the Assad government. The new sanctions target 12 new government ministers appointed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a cabinet reshuffle.

The sanctions would affect "innocent civilians," the Foreign Ministry said, indicating that the EU was "practicing terrorism" alongside groups like IS.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry went on to say that Damascus was "determined to combat terrorism and will not yield to dictates from any side."

Through its state media, Damascus has run a campaign to assert that it is fighting IS.

That campaign has continued this week, with Syria's state news agency SANA publishing several reports every day of Syrian Arab Army gains against IS, including in Homs. These reports have run alongside other dispatches of government advances against "terrorists," the term used by Damascus to refer to all factions of the armed opposition.

The aim of the reports is to show that Assad's forces are in control of the military situation and are capable of gaining ground against IS militants as well as armed rebels. The reports also aim to conflate IS with the rest of the armed opposition.

As Syrian state media emphasized Damascus's ability to make advances against the rebels, Assad's strongest ally, Russia, has asserted the Syrian president's legitimacy.

Speaking at a session of the Syrian-Russian cooperation commission in Sochi on October 24, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that Assad's landslide victory in the June 4 Syrian presidential election had "strengthened the security" of Syria.

In discussing Assad's election victory, Rogozin referred to the fight against terrorism.

"One can only wonder how it was possible in the conditions of the fight against terrorism to hold elections. The elections were held, despite attempts to undermine them," Rogozin said.

Assad won close to 90 percent of the vote in the June elections, but the Syrian opposition and its Western allies said the elections, which were held only in government-controlled areas, had been a farce.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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