PRESIDENT ASSAD welcomed President Medvedev of Russia to Syria at a press conference last Tuesday.
He said: ‘I welcome our friend President Dmitry Medvedev on his first visit to Syria. This is the first visit by a Russian president to Syria. Therefore, this visit is historic and exceptional and reflects the extent to which relations between Syria and Russia have reached over the past decades.
‘This relationship has always been dominated by mutual support and trust.
‘Tens of thousands of Syrians have graduated from well-established Russian universities and returned home to actively participate in building their country. Also thousands of Russian technicians have participated, along with the Syrians, in establishing the infrastructure in Syria over the decades.
‘Today we have a large number of joint Syrian-Russian families and young generations from these families that embrace a joint Syrian-Russian culture. Some of them live in our country while others live in Russia. These families constitute a natural bridge on which we depend to develop our relations in the future.
‘We in Syria will not forget Russia’s historical stances since the beginning of our relationship 66 years ago in support of Arab issues and the Palestinians’ right to regain their rights and Syria’s right to restore its occupied territories, and these stances continue till this day.
‘Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, something which contributes to world security. Russia is an important country on the international level due to its geopolitical position as a country that connects the East with the West, and due to its human, economic, and scientific potential and its position in the UN Security Council.
‘Therefore dialogue between us is always important for the region and the world. At the same time, it is always a fruitful and productive dialogue. That is how the situation was today during my talks with President Medvedev.
‘We concentrated in our talks primarily on bilateral relations. Coordination in the political sphere exists in a continuous and regular manner. Today, we spoke in detail about activating cooperation in the economic sphere. The global financial crisis has harmed cooperation among the countries in general and trade exchange between Syria and Russia has been affected by this crisis. Today we looked for new horizons that could boost cooperation between the two countries, overcome this crisis, and lead to new and far horizons.
‘We talked about cooperation in the field of oil and gas, including excavation, transportation, and building of refineries, in addition to building electric power plants, whether these are traditional or nuclear power plants. We also talked about cooperation in the field of building dams and the irrigation infrastructure, in addition to the issue of transportation, especially air transportation. We also addressed the possibility of setting up a strategic cooperation council between the two countries. The Foreign Ministries in both countries will study this issue and present proposals to the two governments and leaderships.
‘We talked about the issue of peace. Both countries are traditionally interested in achieving peace in the Middle East. Russia is one of the main sponsors of the Middle East peace process launched in Madrid. This process is now stalled, but during the suspension period it is possible for some to take measures that may help boost peace opportunities or vice versa. They may take measures that may completely blow up the peace process.
‘We view the expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem, the aggression against the holy places, and the siege imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza as steps and measures that may entirely blow up the peace process.
‘We discussed the Iranian nuclear issue and we are of the opinion that all countries have the right to own nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. We also discussed the need to free the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. We stressed that dialogue between Iran and the Group of Six should continue because sanctions do not do any good; they complicate rather than facilitate efforts to reach a solution.
‘In conclusion, we in Syria believe that peace and stability are the right way to combat terrorism. We condemn all terrorist operations that were carried out lately against the Russian people, who are friendly people seeking peace. We stand by these people in confronting any action that would prejudice their safety and interests.’
The Russian president replied praising Syrian-Russian relations and saying that he had held ‘very good talks’ with President Al-Assad.
He mentioned the issues he discussed with the Syrian president, including cooperation in the fields of oil and gas, transportation, electricity, nuclear energy, tourism, and space technology. He also talks about the political situation in the Middle East, Arab-Israeli negotiations, and the Iranian nuclear programme. The two presidents then begin to answer reporters’ questions.
Asked by a Russian Interfax correspondent about Syria’s perception of the prospects for a settlement in the Middle East and the role Russia can play in this context, and asked if Syria is prepared for a compromise solution, President Al-Assad said: ‘The Arab party is ready and it expressed its readiness through the Arab peace initiative of 2002.
‘We all know and most countries interested in peace know that the Israeli side is not ready.
‘We continue to wait for the US sponsor to move seriously and effectively towards the peace process. What Russia can do – and this might not necessarily be achieved – is search for this Israeli partner, whom we do not see now, by convincing him of the importance of peace for him and for the region and by holding dialogue with the US sponsor in order to encourage him to move quickly in order to push the peace process forward. When we get to this stage, there will be details, principles, and mechanisms the Russian side can discuss with the concerned parties in order to ensure the methodology, continuity, and consequently the success of the peace process.’
Concluding, President Al-Assad says: ‘As for the last part of the question, I want to say that compromises are always there except when things pertain to rights. I mean that if someone comes and steals your property, you may accept a settlement in any direction, but you will not accept that only part of your property is returned.
‘He should return all property in full. Compromise could be made on other aspects. Third, the land must be returned fully. Other things like relations, security arrangements, and other details can lend themselves to compromise.’
The Russian and Syrian leaders have had a discussion in principle regarding the construction of a nuclear power plant in Syria, the head of Rosatom, Sergey Kiriyenko, told journalists on Wednesday 12 May.
If the Syrian side takes the decision in principle to develop nuclear energy, then our cooperation is quite possible,’ he said.
Asked whether it was dangerous to build a nuclear power plant in that region, Kiriyenko replied that ‘any work in the nuclear sector follows the existing rules. If they are violated, then it is dangerous to build a nuclear power plant anywhere,’ he added.
Kiriyenko went on to add that nuclear cooperation was multifaceted and included science, nuclear medicine, personnel training, and power generation. ‘If our partners in Syria decide to seriously develop nuclear energy, then the sequence of steps is clear. The main issue is compliance with all the norms and requirements of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency),’ he said.
‘Our Syrian partners are showing great interest in this,’ he added.
ria decide to seriously develop nuclear energy, then the sequence of steps is clear. The main issue is compliance with all the norms and requirements of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency),’ he said.
‘Our Syrian partners are showing great interest in this,’ he added.