‘This story involving chemical weapons is a pretext for direct military intervention’

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Syrian troops greet President Assad after the victory over the terrorists in Eastern Ghouta
Syrian troops greet President Assad after the victory over the terrorists in Eastern Ghouta

ACCORDING to the Syrian president, Syria destroyed all its stocks of chemical weapons back in 2013, but the West was still using ‘fairy tales’ to accuse Damascus when the terrorist forces under their control suffer military defeats.

Speaking to Russia’s NTV news channel, Bashar Assad said that the stories about the use of chemical weapons were part of the West’s line directed against Damascus. ‘But these stories are used when their forces – the terrorists under their control, are defeated in some part of Syria.

‘This story involving chemical weapons is a pretext for direct military intervention and attacks against the Syrian army,’ Assad added, recalling that Damascus destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons back in 2013. Furthermore, he said, the terrorists from Daesh (ISIS) and Nusra Front will return to the idea of building a so-called caliphate, and with Western help.

‘This is a religious threat with political support. This doesn’t happen spontaneously. They will return, because Western forces use them again and again, but under different names.’ Assad recalled for example the Mujahideen fighters who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan three decades ago, and how then-President Ronald Reagan called them ”holy warriors” rather than terrorists.

‘Now they are called terrorists, but are used anyway. Perhaps in ten years they will be used somewhere else, under another name. This is just rebranding. This is an instrument of the West,’ he said. The president added that Russia was right in sensing the danger of terrorism, and reiterated that by defending Syrians from the terrorists, the Russian military is also protecting its own citizens in Russia itself.

According to Assad, the military and political presence of Russia in Syria today is also an important element to restoring the global geopolitical balance which was lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Assad stressed that Syria’s war was not a civil war, but a war of Syrians against mercenaries and terrorists. ‘We do not have a civil war, since a civil war is based on inter-confessional, ethnic, religious or other conflicts.

‘We do not have this in Syria. You can go anywhere, particularly in government-controlled areas, and can see all the layers of Syrian society living peacefully alongside one another… ‘The war has taught us a very important lesson. Our diverse society has become much more united than it was before the war; we learned this lesson,’ he said.

‘It’s not our people shooting at one another, but mercenaries and terrorists. ‘In Russia too you have terrorists, and they are Russians, but they do not represent your society, but their own ideology. In Syria it is the same way,’ Assad explained.

The president said he was confident that the war in Syria and the destabilisation of Syria was planned abroad, primarily by the US, France and Britain, as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The president also said that the West will not be allowed participate in Syria’s reconstruction, because they act in a predatory manner.

‘Frankly, this is the best statement made by the West during the entire war in Syria,’ Assad said, commenting on recent statements by Western officials that they would ‘not give a cent’ for Syria’s reconstruction while its current government was in power. ‘This is better because they will not be part of the restoration of Syria; we simply will not let them do it. Will they come to us with money or not?

‘Whether they offer a loan, a donation or grants, anything – we do not need the West. ‘The West is distant from the concept of integrity; they do not give, they only take,’ Assad said. ‘When European countries talk about helping to rebuild Syria, they do not think about helping Syria, but about how to make a profit,’ he added.

According to the president, notwithstanding the destruction of the war, Syria has the strength to rebuild. ‘We are certain of this,’ Assad stressed. ‘If we have no money, we will borrow from our friends – from Syrians living abroad, from our treasury. We are not concerned about this. Perhaps the restoration of Syria will take more time, but nevertheless, there is no cause for concern.’

Asked whether he plans to run for another term in 2021, Assad said that everything depends on what Syrians have to say, and whether he feels that he has something more to give his country. As for possible future constitutional reforms, he said that such reforms would depend on the will of the Syrian people, as expressed in a national referendum, and not on the president, the government, or some outside force.

‘If there is a referendum, and people support a new constitution, we will accept it, of course, but not because this was something the UN or a foreign state wanted. This will be the decision of the Syrians,’ he said. Asked whether he was concerned about what Western governments or media sometimes say about him, Assad stressed that the ‘drop of blood of any Syrian causes much more emotion than these fables.

‘Secondly, when you know that it is a lie, it doesn’t upset you. You can feel something when you are criticised based on real facts; then you can experience pain and suffering,’ he said.

In Assad’s view, the ‘problem of the West is that they do not have statesmen, but only fake politicians. ‘Fake politics needs fake news. Tales about chemical weapons are part of this fake. ‘Western politicians, and I’m not talking about the people, only the politicians, there is absolutely no sense of morality or moral principles. When you encounter unprincipled people, they do not touch your heart nor your mind,’ he said.

• Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas has warned the White House against ‘alternatives and illusion,’ which he said are aimed at preventing the creation of a Palestinian state. In an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, the US President’s senior adviser Jared Kushner signalled his readiness to work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hammer out the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

‘If President Abbas is ready to go back to the negotiations table, then we are ready to participate in the discussion, but if it’s not the case, then we are going to make the plan public,’ Kushner said, adding that the plan would be ready ‘soon’.

At the same time, Kushner claimed that Abbas is ‘scared we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it. ‘I question President Abbas’ ability, or desire, to finish the deal. He has the same talking points that haven’t changed in the past 25 years. Peace hasn’t been achieved during that period,’ Kushner pointed out.

Separately, he singled out the ‘sad’ situation in Gaza where ‘the level of despair reveals the worst scenario that can happen when things are left without a solution and when it is allowed to continue.’ The interview came after Kushner and the US President’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and US Ambassador David Friedman ‘to continue their discussions’ on the matter.

For his part, Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s executive committee and a top Palestinian negotiator, slammed Kushner and Greenblatt’s visit to the Middle East as an attempt to topple the Palestinian Authority and obliterate the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees).

‘They want to destroy the UNRWA by providing direct aid to countries that host the refugees, and by providing aid worth a billion dollars to the Gaza Strip without involving the UNRWA. All of this is meant to take the refugee issue off the agenda,’ Erekat said.

President Abbas in turn warned that ‘the American delegation has to realise that there’s no point in looking for alternatives and illusions that are meant to divide the Palestinian homeland and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.’ Earlier, Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh called for the implementation of decisions made by the international community which he said will add to ‘true peace.’

According to him, these are based on ‘a two-state solution, a Palestinian state built on the ”67 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and the creation of an international mechanism to put the peace process back on the right track.’ Their remarks came after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz cited Israeli and Arab sources as saying that the Trump administration is trying to convince the Arab monarchies in the Gulf to invest up to one billion dollars in economic projects in the Gaza Strip.

The goal is to improve the security situation in the area and generate momentum ahead of the planned presentation of the Middle East peace plan by Washington. Tensions between Tel Aviv and the Palestinians escalated earlier this year after the Trump administration recognised the contested holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and relocated its embassy there. The move was followed by the PLO asking Arab states to sever ties with states that moved their embassies to Jerusalem; it also led to fierce violence on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Israel deployed its security forces to suppress the rallies, launching a series of airstrikes on Gaza amid the Palestinian militant group Hamas’s launch of IED and flammables-laden balloons and kites into Israeli territory. At least 120 Palestinians have been killed in the violence since protests began on March 30.