PRESIDENT Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to the Spanish EFE news agency in which he stressed that Syria will not negotiate with terrorists.
We reproduce a number of the questions and the answers.
Question: ‘Would you be ready to negotiate, to dialogue, with the opposition groups that are right now gathering in Riyadh?’
President Assad: ‘They are a mixture of political opposition and militants. Let me be realistic; regarding the militants in Syria, we already had some dialogue with some groups, not organisations, for one reason, and the reason was to reach a situation where they give up their armaments and either join the government or go back to their normal life, having amnesty from the government. This is the only way to deal with the militants in Syria. Whenever they want to change their approach, give up the armaments, we are ready, while to deal with them as a political entity, this is something we completely refuse.’
Question: ‘Will the Syrian delegation attend the conference in New York in case this conference was confirmed, in the next weeks?’
President Assad: ‘For us, in Syria, everyone who holds a machinegun is a terrorist, so without defining this term, reaching a definition, there’s no point of just meeting in New York, or anywhere else.’
Question: ‘Is there any kind of military coordination between the Syrian Army and the bombing attacks of the US-led coalition?’
President Assad: ‘Not at all, not at all, not a single connection regarding this sector, let’s say, military sector.’
Question: ‘What has President Vladimir Putin asked of you in return for Russian military aid?’
President Assad: ‘He didn’t ask for anything in return for a simple reason; because it’s not a trade. Actually, the normal relation between two countries is a relation about mutual interest. The question is what is the mutual interest between Syria and Russia? Does Russia have interest in having more terrorism in Syria? The collapse of the Syrian state? Anarchy? No, they don’t have. So, let’s say in return, Russia has the stability of Syria, of Iraq, of our region – we’re not far from Russia, of Russia, and let me go far beyond that, of Europe.’
Question: ‘As a hypothesis, would you accept the possibility of leaving Syria in the future and leaving to a friendly country if this was the condition for a final political arrangement?’
President Assad: ‘For me leaving the position?’
Question: ‘Leaving the position and leaving Syria.’
President Assad: ‘No, leaving Syria, I never thought about leaving Syria under any circumstances, in any situation, something I never put in my mind, like the Americans say “plan B” or “plan C”. Actually, no. ‘But again, the same answer: that depends on the Syrian population; would they support you or not? If you have the support, it means you’re not the problem, because if you are the problem as a person, the Syrian people will be against you. What’s the point of the people, of the majority, supporting you, while you are the reason of the conflict? This is the first aspect.
‘The second aspect, if I have a problem with the Syrians, with the majority of the Syrians, and you have the national and regional countries being against me, and the West, most of the West, the United States, their allies, the strongest countries and the richest countries in the world against me, and I’m against the Syrian people, how can I be president? It’s not logical. I’m being here after five years – nearly five years – of the war, because I have the support of the majority of the Syrians.’
Question: ‘Is it true that Russia will have another military base in Syria?’
President Assad: ‘No, that’s not true, and two days ago, they denied this allegation. If there is, they would have announced it, and we would have announced it at the same time, so no.’
Question: ‘Are the Iranians planning to build here their own military base?’
President Assad: ‘No. They never thought about it, never discussed this.’
Question: ‘Is it possible to include President Erdogan in solution for the crisis? What is the role of Turkey in this crisis?’
President Assad: ‘As a principle, if he’s willing to get away from his criminal attitude that he’s been adopting since the beginning of the crisis by supporting the terrorists in every way, we don’t have a problem. We don’t have a problem. At the end, we will be ready to welcome any help or positive participation from anywhere. That’s in principle. So, whoever’s been complicit against Syria, we don’t have a problem with, but do we expect Erdogan to change? No, for one reason, because Erdogan is a Muslim Brotherhood ideological person, so he cannot go against his ideology.
‘He’s not a pragmatic man who thinks about the interests of his country. He’s working against the interests of his country for the sake of his ideology, whether it’s realistic or not. So we don’t expect Erdogan to change in that way.’
Question: ‘US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced recently that he will travel to Moscow to see President Putin and the Russian Foreign Minister. Don’t you fear that a kind of trade between the US and Moscow, Ukraine against Syria, could be in preparation?’
President Assad: ‘No, because it’s been now nearly five years, and we’ve been hearing that argument, or let’s say, kind of, how to say, idea, by the Western officials, just to make a wedge, a kind of wedge between Syria and Russia. The Russians are pragmatic, but at the same time they are adopting a moral policy based on values and principles, not only on interests, and the good thing in their position is that there’s no conflict or contradiction between their values and their interests.
‘This is first. Second, The Russians know very well that any solution, if there’s a trade for example for the solution, any solution cannot be implemented if it’s not a compromise between the Syrians. So, Russia and the United States and any other country in this world cannot make a deal; we can make the deal with ourselves, Syrians can make a deal with the Syrians, can make dialogue with the Syrians. That’s what the Russians know very well. That’s why they don’t make such mistakes, beside the values that they have.’
Question: ‘Mr. President, we want you to send a message to the Syrian refugees that have fled the country, many of them fled to Europe and even to Spain. What message do you have for them?’
President Assad: ‘Most of those refugees have contact with their families in Syria, so we’re still in contact with them. The majority of those refugees are government supporters, but they left because of the situation created by the terrorists, the direct threatening, killing, and because the terrorists destroyed the infrastructure, and by the embargo by the West on Syria where the basic life needs are not affordable anymore.
‘So, actually, I don’t have to send a message to them because they are going to come back when the situation is better. Most of them like their country, they love this country. Actually, the message I would like to send is to the European governments: they brought them, they created the situation, they helped the terrorists, and they made the embargo that has played directly into the hands of those terrorists and helped those people leaving Syria to other countries.
‘So, if you are working for the sake of the Syrian people, as you said, the first thing you do is to lift the embargo. The second thing to do is to stop the flooding of terrorists. So, I think the message is to the western governments who helped the refugees to flee Syria and live in their countries.’