Syrian government troops will stay in urban areas until “peace and security prevail,” the Syrian government said on Saturday.

“The presence of the Syrian Arab Army in Syrian cities is for defensive purposes [so] as to protect the civilians,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told state media late on Friday, as cited by ¬†Al Jazeera televison.

“Once peace and security prevail, the army is to pull out,” he said amidst continuing reports of violence and deaths in Syria where there has been civil unrest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for more than a year.