Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday saluted Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, saying he was “ready” to cooperate with the conservative firebrand, UK’s Independent reported citing a Damascus official.

“I think the American people have sent a great, a very important message to the world,” top Assad Bouthaina Shaaban was quoted as saying, adding the future cooperation will depend on “whether Mr Trump’s policies meet expectations.”

Washington has backed rebel forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s five-year civil war, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic runner-up, was especially supportive of regime change.

But Trump has repeatedly voiced admiration for Vladimir Putin and advocated a US rapprochement with Russia — one of Assad’s strongest supporters along with Iran.

Trump said earlier this year that fighting both IS and Assad simultaneously was “madness, and idiocy”.

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Waddah Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan, said Trump’s win came as a “nice surprise” in Damascus.

“It is time for the policies of the United States to change and stop being hostage to the catastrophic wishes of the Gulf countries, which have destroyed several countries in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile Syria’s main opposition group has urged Trump to protect civilians and help end the bloodshed in the country, devastated by five years of war.

Riad Hijab, head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said Syrian civilians were in urgent need of protection from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in a statement released on Wednesday night.

He called for American support to “establish peace in our region and to find fair and swift solutions for the threat of terrorism… especially the state terrorism practiced by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people,” Hijab said.

Hijab congratulated Trump on his election victory and urged him to provide “the fastest and most efficient means to protect civilians”.

The conflict in Syria has left some 300,000 people dead since anti-regime protests in 2011 triggered a brutal government crackdown that has prompted accusations of war crimes.

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