|The News Line: Feature
Thursday, 9 February 2017
ĎSYRIA IS OWNED BY THE SYRIANSí ĖINSISTS PRESIDENT ASSAD Ė Part one
PRESIDENT Bashar al-Assad stressed in Damascus that Syria is owned by the Syrians and that the peace is two things. First, fighting terrorists and terrorism, and stopping the flowing of every kind of logistical support.
ĎSecond, a dialogue between the Syrians to decide the future of their country and the whole political system.í
He answered a number of questions speaking to the Belgian media.
ē Mr. President, weíve been to Aleppo, weíve seen the destruction. How do you see the way forward to peace nowadays after Astana?
President Assad: If you want to talk about how to see the peace, itís not related mainly to Astana; itís related to something much bigger: how can we stop the flowing of the terrorists toward Syria, or in Syria, how can we stop the support from regional countries like Turkey, Gulf states, or from Europe like France and UK, or from the US during the Obama administration.
ĎIf we deal with that title, this is where you can talk about the rest, about the political procedure. Astana is one of the initiatives during this war on Syria, and itís about the dialogue between the Syrians. Now itís too early to judge Astana. The first one was positive because it was about the principles of the unity of Syria, about the Syrians deciding their future. How can you implement this communique? Thatís the question, and I think we are going to see Astana 2 and so on.
ĎSo, the peace is two things: fighting terrorists and terrorism, stopping the flowing of terrorism, every kind of logistical support. Second, dialogue between the Syrians to decide the future of their country and the whole political system. These are the headlines about how we see the future of Syria.
ēWe have seen many breaches in the ceasefire. Would you consider the ceasefire is still upholding, or is it dead?
President Assad: No, itís not dead, and itís natural in every ceasefire anywhere in the world, in every war, in any conflict, to have these breaches. It could be sometimes on individual levels, it doesnít mean thereís a policy of breaching the ceasefire by the government or by any other party, and this is something we can deal with on daily basis, and sometimes on hourly basis, but till this moment, no, the ceasefire is holding.í
ē In the fight against terror group Daesh, do you think all means are justified?
President Assad: That depends on what do we mean by Ďall means,í you have to beÖ
Journalist: Literally all means.
President Assad: Yeah, but I donít know what the means that are available to tell you yes or Ďall means,í so I donít what the Ďall meansí are. But if you want to talk about military means, yes of course, because the terrorists are attacking the people Ė Iím not only talking about ISIS; ISIS and al-Nusra and all the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups within Syria Ė when they are attacking civilians, and killing civilians, and beheading people, and destroying properties, private and public, and destroying the infrastructure, everything in this country, letís say, our constitutional duty and legal duty as government and as army and as state institutions is to defend the Syrian people. Itís not an opinion; itís a duty. So, regarding this, you can use every means in order to defend the Syrian people.
ē But we have seen the destruction in Aleppo, you have seen the images as well. Was there no other way to do it?
President Assad: Actually, since the beginning of the crisis, of the war on Syria, we used every possible way. We didnít leave any stone unturned in order to bring people to the negotiating table, but when you talk about the terrorists, when you talk about terrorists, when you talk about Al Qaeda, when you talk about al-Nusra and ISIS, I donít think anyone in this world would believe that they are ready for dialogue, and they always say theyíre not; they have their own ideology, they have their own way path, they donít accept anything that could be related to civil state or civil country. They donít, and I think you know as a European about this reality. So, no, making dialogue with al-Nusra and Al Qaeda is not one of the means, but if somebody wanted to change his course on the individual level, we are ready to accept him as a government, and give him amnesty when he goes back to normal life and gives up his armament.
ē The Belgian government is contributing to the fight against Daesh. There are six F-16 fighter planes in the fight against Daesh. Are you grateful to the Belgian government for that contribution?
President Assad: Let me be frank with you, when you talk about contribution in the operation against ISIS, actually there was no operation against ISIS; it was a cosmetic operation, if you want to talk about the American alliance against ISIS. It was only an illusive alliance, because ISIS was expanding during that operation. At the same time, that operation is an illegal operation because it happened without consulting with or taking the permission of the Syrian government, which is the legitimate government, and itís a breaching of our sovereignty. Third, they didnít prevent any Syrian citizen from being killed by ISIS, so what is there to be grateful for? To be frank, no.
ē You have stated several times that it is up to the Syrian people, it is up to the constitution, to decide who their leadership should be, who their president should be. If the Syrian people would decide for a new leadership, would you consider stepping aside?
President Assad: If the Syrian people choose another president, I donít have to choose to be aside; I would be aside, I would be outside this position, thatís self-evident, because the constitution will put the president, and the constitution will take him out according to the ballot box and the decision of the Syrian people. Of course, thatís very natural, not only because of the ballot box; because if you donít have public support, you cannot achieve anything in Syria, especially in a war. In a war, what you need, the most important thing is to have public support in order to restore your country, to restore the stability and security. Without it, you cannot achieve anything. So, yes, of course.
ē Mr. President, I am 43 years old. If I would have been born in Syria, there would always have been an Assad in executive power. Can you imagine a Syria without a member of the Assad family in executive power?
President Assad: Of course, we donít own the country, my family doesnít own the country, to say that only Assad should be in that position, thatís self-evident, and this could be by coincidence, because President Assad didnít have an heir in the institution to be his successor. He died, I was elected, he didnít have anything to do with my election. When he was president, I didnít have any position in the government. If he wanted me to be an heir, he would have put me somewhere, given me a responsibility. I didnít have any responsibility, actually. So, itís not, as many in the media in the West used to say since my election, that Ďhe succeeded his fatherí or Ďhis father put him in that position.í So, yes, Syria is owned by the Syrians, and every Syrian citizen has the right to be in that position.
ē Do you think the European Union or even NATO can play a role in, like, rebuilding the country, like, rebuilding Syria?
President Assad: You cannot play that role while you are destroying Syria, because the EU is supporting the terrorists in Syria from the very beginning under different titles: humanitarians, moderate, and so on. Actually, they were supporting al-Nusra and ISIS from the very beginning. They were extremists from the very beginning. So, they cannot destroy and build at the same time. First of all, they have to take a very clear position regarding the sovereignty of Syria, stop supporting the terrorists. This is where the Syrians would Ė I say would Ė accept those countries to play a role in that regard. But in the meantime, if you ask any Syrian the same question, he will tell you Ďno, we donít accept, those countries supported the people who destroyed our country, we donít want them to be here.í Thatís what I think.
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