(CNN) -- As violence raged in Syria, a government official Monday urged citizens who have fled the nation to come home "immediately," saying they have no reason to fear.
"There is nothing at all which prevents the return of any Syrian citizen," Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said.
Here are the latest developments in the 18-month crisis.
On the ground: Government issues threats; clashes rage on
Al-Zoubi addressed various topics at a news conference in Damascus, and he reiterated his government's stance. He slammed the West, accusing Europe of not having an opinion of its own.
"European roles are always attached to U.S. roles. ... There are never independent European roles," he said at the conference aired by Iran's Press TV, a top ally of Syria.
Al-Zoubi dismissed assertions that President Bashar al-Assad has lost his legitimacy as "silly talk."
"They can speak now until the end of the year," he said.
The minister also reiterated al-Assad's disapproval of talks about buffer zones, warning that if any nation dares to set up one in Syria, it will fight back.
"If anyone whatsoever tries to touch Syria's national sovereignty, we will cut their arm off," he warned.
Late last month, Turkey's foreign minister suggested the need for a buffer zone to help disburse humanitarian aid and protect those fleeing the conflict.
Maintaining a stance the government has held all along, al-Zoubi said the army will continue battling "terrorists," a term the regime uses consistently to refer to those seeking the president's ouster.
"We will sit down for dialogue when the militants lay down arms," he said.
Opposition activists said new clashes killed at least 132 people nationwide Monday, including 51 who died in airstrikes and other attacks in Aleppo province.
The new tolls come after a bloody week: At least 1,600 people were killed in Syria last week, the deadliest week yet in the civil war, a spokesman for the United Nations' children's fund said. The death toll includes children.