Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will give a rare public speech on Sunday 6 January. State media indicated the president would speak on "latest developments in Syria and the region".

Bashar al-Assad

The broadcast will be the first in several months for the 47-year-old leader, as he continues to wage war against insurgents moving closer to the country's capital, Damascus. Reuters reports the rebels now have control over a number of suburbs running from the eastern to the southwestern outskirts of the city.

Assad's speech will also be his first since he famously told Russian media in November that he would "live and die" in Syria.

The fighting in Syria began in March last year and has already claimed the lives of more than 60,000 people, according to the United Nations. The opposition rebels' leadership council, the BBC notes, has been recognised by the United States and the European Union.

However, it appears that Assad continues to enjoy the support of Russia, China and Iran; the latter's news agency, the Reuters report added, has confirmed that a meeting took place on Saturday 5 January between the Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal al-Makdad, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials.

Meanwhile, the US and NATO have ramped up the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to the Turkish-Syrian border. American forces are already in Turkey and have begun setting up the missile defences, and support from Germany and the Netherlands is believed to be en route.

The presence of the Patriots is a measure to protect Turkey's southern provinces from possible Syrian aggression. Unfortunately, the Syrians have not taken kindly to these developments, claiming it is a likely precursor of Western military action.

The West has, so far, largely stayed out of the struggle against Assad.

The BBC reports UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is working on an agreement to create a transitional government. However, the settlement is conditional on Assad's resignation, which seems unlikely at the moment.