Bashar al-Assad: "The mission of the Geneva conference is to lay the groundwork for a political resolution in Syria. But we can’t start a political dialogue before foreign support of terrorism stops". Source: AFP / East News
In an interview with Izvestia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed who is actually using chemical weapons, commented on the statements of Western politicians about a possible military strike, and talked about why Moscow is helping the Syrian people.
Izvestia: Mr. President, the most pressing question right now is what the situation is in Syria. What areas are still under rebel control?
Bashar al-Assad: The issue is not the areas that are under the terrorists’ control and the areas that are under the army’s control. No army in any nation can ever be fully prepared everywhere in the country.
The terrorists are taking advantage of this, trying to penetrate wherever the army is not present. The problem is not in the areas where there are terrorists, though this changes daily and hourly. The problem is the large number of rebels who come from abroad.
The main reason for the continuation of military action is the large number of terrorists who are steadily entering Syria from abroad. In addition, these terrorists still receive funding and weapons from abroad.
Izvestia: This interview is going to be translated into numerous languages and read by many world leaders. What would you like to say to them?
B.A.: I would like to explain that terrorism is not a bargaining chip that you can keep in your pocket, take out and use whenever you want, and then put back. Terrorism, like a scorpion, can sting at any moment. So you can’t support terrorism in Syria while opposing it in Mali.
Izvestia: Last Wednesday, the rebels accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons. How can you respond to this?
B.A.: It’s nonsense: First they make accusations, and then they gather evidence. So, on Wednesday, they made accusations against us, and it wasn’t until two days later that the American government announced that it was beginning to collect evidence.
According to the accusations, the army used chemical weapons in an area that is allegedly under rebel control. In fact, in this area there is no clear dividing line between the army and the rebels. And can a government really use chemical weapons or any other weapon of mass destruction where its forces are concentrated? These kinds of accusations are therefore exceptionally political.
In recent weeks, we held talks with the U.N. about the work of the commission, and, finally, experts came to Syria. Their findings will be presented at the U.N.
Izvestia: Will you allow the United States to act toward Syria as it acted in Iraq, trying to find a pretext to invade?
B.A.: This is not the first time the issue of invading Syria has arisen. Since the crisis started, the United States, France and Great Britain have been trying to carry out a military invasion, but they have not been able to convince their own citizens or the world at large that their policy is wise or advantageous. It has also turned out that the situation here is different from the one in Egypt and Tunisia.
Another obstacle to military action is the widespread understanding that the events in Syria are not a popular revolution or demand for reforms. They are terrorism. In such a situation, the Western leaders cannot say to their citizens, “We are going into Syria in order to support terrorism.”
Izvestia: Let’s talk about Russia. What will happen if Russia succumbs to Western pressure?
B.A.: With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States thought that Russia was annihilated forever. But when Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia started to defend its positions more and more emphatically. As a result, a new cold war has started.
You may ask why Russia is supporting Syria. Russia is not defending President Bashar al-Assad — the Syrian people can elect any president they want. Russia is defending the principles of independence and nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other governments.
Moreover, Russia is defending its interests in the region, as it has a right to do. These interests do not stop at the port of Tartus. The terrorist strikes in Syria threaten stability throughout the Middle East. Destabilization here would also impact Russia.
We also shouldn’t forget about the thousands of Russian-Syrian families who form a cultural and human bridge between the two governments.
Izvestia:Will there be talks with Russia about the supply of oil, goods and weapons? I would particularly like to ask about the contract to provide S-300 systems — have they been supplied to you?
B.A.: It goes without saying that no country can reveal the presence of specific weapons or agreements to supply them — this information comprises the secrets of a government and its armed forces.
However, I’d like to say that all contracts that have been made with Russia are being respected. Neither the crisis nor pressure from the United States, Europe or the Persian Gulf nations has prevented their fulfillment. Russia is giving Syria what it needs to defend itself and its people.
Izvestia: What kind of aid does Syria expect from Russia: economic or military?
B.A.: Russia’s political support, as well as the scrupulous fulfillment of military contracts despite American pressure, has markedly helped our economic situation.
Izvestia: Mr. President, whom do you consider your major allies, and whom do you consider your opponents?
B.A.: The countries that are standing with us on the world stage are Russia and China; on the regional level, Iran is with us. However, I can say that there are positive shifts in the world: Some countries have begun to change their positions.
There are governments that have openly supported the terrorists in Syria, such as Qatar and Turkey. Qatar sponsors the terrorists, and Turkey trains them and gives them safe passage. Now, Saudi Arabia has replaced Qatar as a sponsor.
Izvestia: What do you expect from the Geneva 2 conference?
B.A.: The mission of the Geneva conference is to lay the groundwork for a political resolution in Syria. But we can’t start a political dialogue before foreign support of terrorism stops. We expect from Geneva the continuation of pressure on the countries that are supporting terrorism in Syria. They must halt the covert supplying of arms and sending of mercenary terrorists to Syria.
First published in Russian in Izvestia.
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