16 March، 2023
President Bashar al-Assad said that an Arab movement towards Syria has started, noting that the return to the Arab League is not a goal, by itself, for Syria, but the core target is the joint Arab Action, adding that the Iran – Saudi Arabia agreement will positively reflect on the whole region states.
President al-Assad gave an interview to the Russian channel of RT, in which his excellency touched upon the policy adopted by the West with Syria and the world; the policy that is built on the hypocrisy and lies, stressing that the US is the most rogue country in the world, and that the visit by its chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to northeastern Syria is a violation of international law.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Question: Mr. President, your official and public visit comes in light of accelerating regional and international changes. What has changed with regard to Damascus? Is Syria today facing a new phase. And your meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the 15th of March, is there any symbolism for this day?
President al-Assad: No, there is no symbolism for this day. But, yes there is an importance to the visit. But what has changed! Damascus is a part of the world in which we influence and are influenced. The question is what has not changed for this world. During the past few years, Corona epidemic emerged to change all lifestyles and all politics, the economy, and interests. The war in Ukraine changed more. The truth is that today we live in a more changing world, and this visit is important because it re-establishes new common perceptions between Russia and Syria towards this new world in which we affect and are affected on a daily basis.
Question: Syria is experiencing the repercussions of the aftermath of the earthquake, politically and economically. What files did you discuss with President Putin at the Kremlin yesterday?
President al-Assad: From a political point of view, events do not wait for you. If we are late in dialogue, drawing up perceptions, and later in drawing up executive plans, these events will bypass us, and we will lose a lot at the level of national interests for us or for Russia.
From an economic point of view, when we talk about war and siege, and above all of that an earthquake, economic work becomes a more urgent need. It may be that talking about the economy in circumstances of disasters is more important than any other talk. Therefore, during this visit, the economic files that were raised were the widest, the most comprehensive.
Therefore, I think that the timing of the visit, although it was planned before the earthquake, comes at a very appropriate time.
Question: You are talking about the sanctions on Syria, but some of these sanctions have been lifted over the aftermath of the earthquake… Today, what is required to rehabilitate the damaged Syrian cities… Is there specific figures after 12 years of war and the present earthquake… the figures may be imaginary now?
President al-Assad: The assessment for the losses of war was more than $400 billion but this is an approximate figure. It may be more than that, taking into consideration there are out-of-control government areas. The realized figure for the earthquake is $50 billion, and it is also a hypothetical number because assessing the damage, whether it is public or private buildings or the infrastructure, still needs time and has not been completed yet.
However, we should not consider the damage, whether in war or in an earthquake, as it is only a material one that affects the buildings, facilities and infrastructure, but rather it is the damage inflicting to the economy in general. The earthquake economic losses may reveal far greater losses than the material damage.
Now, concerning your question, what is required that there are sanctions that have been lifted. No.. the truth is none… Some humanitarian aid was allowed, but the economy needs facilitation to deliver various raw and non-raw materials necessary for public life in any country, including industry, trade, and others. Other than that, this issue has not changed. Regardless of the aid, Syria is able to rehabilitate itself after the war and after the earthquake because it has all the factors for reconstruction, but the major impediment in this regard is that this process is now significantly more expensive and more difficult, yet, it is being done, but in specific sectors such as electricity. Consequently, what is requires for Syria; it is to lift the embargo.
Question: The West is lying when they talk to the media that the sanctions have been lifted to help the Syrian people, whether they are in areas controlled by the state or outside its control .. Is this political hypocrisy?
President al-Assad: European policy is based on lying in everything and towards all files. The Syrian file is one of their lies, so of course the West is lying. If you do not lie today, you will not be Western. This is the reality now and I am not exaggerating. We have dealt with them in many files for years, even when relations were good between Syria and the West, the relationship was one of hypocrisy and lies on the part of the West against Syria, as is the case with other countries, and as is the case with regard to the Ukrainian issue and any other issue… Of course they lie, they want to show their fake humane face in relation to the earthquake in Syria, so as not to say that they took an inhumane stance, but in fact did not present anything.
Question: The earthquake has also hit Turkish cities, and it is no longer a secret that efforts are being extended to normalize with Ankara. Can the joint catastrophe accelerate the process of rapprochement and settle disputes. Turning a blind eye, perhaps, to some practices. Isn’t it the time for this?
President al-Assad: Actually, the earthquake hit the Turkish citizen; it affected the people. I do not even think that there is separation between the two peoples in general; rather the problem is that the politicians in Turkey have special ambitions to achieve through the war in Syria.
This is how the situation was at the beginning of the war, and still is, so the answer to your question is that the only earthquake that changes Turkish policies and pushes for rapprochement at present is the presidential elections in Turkey, nothing else.
Question: In this context, it was recently said that a summit could bring you together with President Erdogan, whether it was with Russian or Russian-Iranian mediation within the framework of the quadrilateral talks of Astana. In politics, as you know, there are no permanent friendships or permanent enmity. Are you ready to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?
President al-Assad: The natural question in such a situation is what is the goal of any political meeting, at any level? It is to achieve specific results, so what are these results? For us in Syria, the priority is the withdrawal of all illegal foreign forces, and this basically means the US and Turkey, there are no other illegal forces in Syria, along with stopping their support for terrorism… This means the so-called “Jabhat Tahrir al-Sham” and “al-Nusra”, whatever their names are… as the component is one and the supporter is one. The last Turkish proposal for the quartet meeting at the level of assistant foreign ministers is that there should be no agenda for the meeting… that there should be no conditions by any party… and that there should be no expectations, so what is the purpose of such meeting? why should we go? In order to take photos? they say that Syria will only go with the maximum conditions. Raising the issue of withdrawal is a fixed and core demand that will not change. It is a national issue, not a political one, but to go to a meeting we do not know why, nor how, nor anything, then here is the problem, we are trying to set a clear agenda
Question: This means you are not participating in tomorrow’s scheduled meeting at the level Deputy Foreign Ministers here in Moscow. This meeting will not take place?
President al-Assad: We insist that either there be a clear agenda or that Syria adheres to the withdrawal item. If there is none, the only agenda for the Syrian side will be the Turkish withdrawal from Syria.
Question: Mr. President, in case the demands or the Syrian vision are met, will the meeting between you and the Turkish President Erdogan take place before or after the Turkish elections scheduled to be on May 14? It said that holding the al-Assad-Erdogan summit or not holding this summit would decide a lot in the Turkish elections whether the presidential or parliamentary ones. The timing here is crucial. Are you ready to give President Erdogan the elections card?
President al-Assad: When there is a meeting between two sides, there must be something in common. You propose completely different priorities, and there is no intersection between them. The priority of the Turkish state and the Turkish president is the elections and nothing else. All that serves the elections is priority for them.
With regard to Syria, the priority is withdrawal and restoration of sovereignty. All that serves the restoration of sovereignty and withdrawal from Syrian territory is top priority. So where is confluence of interests in that? There is none. If the first objective meets the second, we have no problem if the withdrawal from Syria will lead Erdogan winning the presidential elections but till now we haven’t seen any convergence, each side is working with different priorities, and herein lies the problem.
Question: But this is not ruled out…
President Assad: Of course, as I said, if the conditions are met, the conditions for us are withdrawal, and if the conditions are met, there is no date for this meeting, It may be today or tomorrow… I mean, there is no problem, the timing is not a problem, but the timing cannot be before these conditions are fulfilled for us.
Question: How do you see the equation of the Turkish interior.. The opposition or the six-opposition seems open to Damascus and to Damascus’ vision more than the Justice and Development government?
President Assad: Since the beginning of the war, we have tried not to be part of the Turkish internal conflict, regardless of our agreement or disagreement with some of these forces. It would be a big mistake to put our national issue as part of what is called the political trappings of another country, first because it is another country and we are not part of this movement… Secondly, because this means dwarfing the issue, which is a major issue for us, not a minor issue.
Question: The Turkish Minister of Defense said that the presence of his country’s army in Syria is not an occupation as you describe it, and Ankara is waiting for Damascus to understand its position regarding the Kurdish units.. Do you understand the Turkish government’s concerns about what is called “separatism … nationalism” that threatens Turkish national security as well threatening the unity and sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic?
President Assad: If it is not an occupation, then what is it.. hosting, I mean, in Syria.. What is that logic? I do not know on which law he relies. Perhaps if he went back to laws before Hammurabi’s law, he would find nothing to help him in this definition until this moment.. except If he depends on the Roman laws according to that stage, when states outlined their borders according to their military strength, Perhaps he lives in that era. As for understanding, he says not half the truth, but rather the opposite of the truth. He is a military man, and the military man must be brave. I wish he had the courage to say this truth, which is that before the war, from 2000 back until 1998, there were not any problem on the borders… There was the Adana agreement, there was an understanding, there was cooperation, and there was almost complete agreement on the security file.. He should have had the courage to say that what is happening now in terms of security was because of Turkish policies, because of Erdogan’s policy in particular, this what he must understand… is that he is the one who led to that result. He has two main files, security and refugees, and both of them, as a Turkish problem, are produced by the Justice and Development Party led by Erdogan.
Question: You mentioned the Adana Agreement. Doesn’t this agreement justify the Turkish presence in the Syrian territories… They say it is protection for their national security according to an agreement that may distance varies by 5 kilometers… Now they are asking for 30 km, but there is an agreement?
President Assad: First, it was not an agreement ratified by Parliament. It was a security agreement, to be legally precise. Secondly, it talks about pursuing terrorists to a depth of 5 kilometers from the borders, so there was no pursuit because the situation was excellent… because there was a Syrian state present along the borders, there was an army, police, and security forces doing their duty, so there was no need to implement this item, and it was not implemented… So they argue with something they were the reason to reach the problem they are proposing now.
Question: Returning to the Syrian Kurds after the visit of US Chief of Staff Mark Milley to northeastern Syria, have the Kurdish units become to you as Daesh, Al-Nusra, and Tahrir al-Sham…that is, have you severed relations with them… Are they strangers to you after such hosting, which perhaps you described it as illegal?
President Assad: No, I cannot relate the visit to our assessment of those groups. First, the visit indicates that America is the largest rogue country in the world, not as they accuse others… They are the most ever country that violates international law , and this visit is a violation of the sovereignty of a state, and therefore it is a violation of the international law. As for those groups, so that not to be understood as an accusation against the Kurds, as they are called the “Kurdish Protection Units, there is “QSD” in which there are some Arabs, so we say our starting point in the assessment is that any party or individual who works for a foreign power is simply a traitor and a collaborator… There are patriotic Kurds, a large part of the Kurds stand by the homeland, but within the circumstances that that region lives under the control of those US-linked groups that does not allow anyone to move in any national direction, so, seemingly it appears as if the majority is not patriotic, but let’s say, as a principle, everyone who works with the Americans is an traitor and this is self-evident.
Question: I would like to speak a little about the region … How do you assess the Iranian-Saudi agreement… Restoring diplomatic relations.. It was always said that Syria is far from the Arabs because of Iran’s presence and influence in Syria.. How will the agreement, in your opinion, reflect on resolving the Syrian file and how will this affect the Syrian inside?
President Assad: First, in terms of the reconciliation, the meeting, or the announcement that was declared through Chinese mediation, it is a wonderful surprise, although negotiations, contacts, and communications took place without it several years ago, it is not new, but the timing was good.. this is from one side… from another side, Syria has no longer a place of Iranian-Saudi conflict, as it was at some stages by some parties at that time. Saudi policy took a different turn towards Syria years ago and it is no longer… I mean, it was not within the framework or was not in the process of interfering in internal affairs or supporting any factions in Syria.. As for talking about a Syrian-Iranian relationship that must be severed, this issue has not been raised with Syria for many years either. I think there is an understanding of the nature of this relationship… There is a kind of loyalty between Syria and Iran that dates back to four decades. If we are not loyal to our friends, how can we be loyal to other friends or even to brothers.. I think that this issue is no longer a problem on the Arab arena according to what we see.. This is what we see today.
Question: In your opinion, how will this agreement affect, perhaps, the Lebanese file.. Lebanon has always been, perhaps, a small arena where regional agreements are crystallized. Now there is a candidacy for Suleiman Franjieh. In your opinion, will this Saudi-Iranian agreement make Lebanon pass through this stage that it is going through?
President Assad: Because we all influence or are affected, and in some cases, depending on the State, it is affected more than it does.. It is natural that we are affected negatively or positively.. This kind of Saudi-Iranian agreement or any other agreement must reflect positively on the region in general, and therefore will positively affect Syria and Lebanon in different forms.. So we can say yes in general. It must be reflected.. How.. on what issue.. at what point. It is difficult to determine now.
Question: “Israel” is the most affected according to the media by the agreement between Tehran and Riyadh… Are you not afraid of its attempts to reshuffle the region’s cards through continuing to bomb the Syrian lands… They always say, after each bombing, that the target is the Iranian-linked sites and militias?
President Assad: Basically, it does this continuously.. Basically, it did not stop doing this, and the process of shuffling the cards is carried out by “Israel” from time to time. It started in 2013 when the Syrian Arab Army began advancing against the terrorists at that time.. And after that, and in cooperation with America, of course, it launched Daesh in 2014, specifically as well, on the background of the progress of the Syrian forces.. Now whenever there is progress against the terrorists, “Israel” moves .. strike.. in direct cooperation with those groups.. So the policy of shuffling the cards is a continuous policy that we expect after every positive event and this is natural because “Israel” is an enemy, on the one hand, and because “Israel” is a quasi-state built on terrorism, it is natural for it to stand by it.
Question: What does “Israel” want from the bombing of Syria.. They recently bombed Aleppo International Airport, which was receiving humanitarian aid for those affected by the earthquake.. What do you say.. What did Moscow say to you, why this bombing?
President Al-Assad: The continued weakening of Syria is nothing else. It has nothing to do with Iran or anything.. They know that most of the targets being bombed are Syrian targets and have nothing to do with any Iranian side.. only weakening Syria.
Question: The Arab summit this year will be held in Saudi Arabia.. Will you participate in it if you receive the invitation.. And what about that issue that was proposed about an upcoming visit by the Saudi foreign minister to Damascus and also about a visit by the Jordanian King at the head of an Arab delegation or a contact group, whatever the name may be.. the Arab movement, How do you evaluate it.. Are you ready to receive the Saudis in Damascus?
President Assad: There is the beginning of an Arab movement by presenting ideas only.. We do not have anything until this moment.. How does it develop? We are waiting for any other ideas.. With regard to any measures or implementation plans for these ideas regarding the issue of resolving the crisis in Syria.. I mean They are very broad headlines that do not contain details yet, regarding a meeting with any Arab country, Saudi Arabia or others. Certainly, we have never severed relations with any Arab country. The Arab countries severed their relations with Syria, and we do not believe that severing relations as a principle is a correct principle in politics..It is natural for us to communicate with everyone, including non-Arab countries as well which severed their relations with Syria. This is a general principle.
Syria should not return to the Arab League while it is a title of division.. it returns only when it is a title of agreement.
Question: Will you participate in the Arab summit if you receive the invitation?
President Assad: With regard to the Arab summit, firstly, Syrian membership is suspended. Attending a summit must cancel this suspension, and this basically requires an Arab summit. But with regard to the Syrian stance that was crystallized on this issue by the previous Arab summit in Algeria when the Algerian foreign minister visited us and we informed this stance to the minsters who visited Syria during the earthquake stage in February that returning to the Arab League is not a goal in itself, the goal is joint Arab action.. The Arab League, as a result of its circumstances and as a result of its unclear system, is often an arena for settling scores. So, first, Syria should not return to the Arab League while it is a title of division.. it returns only when it is a title of agreement.
Question: For the Arabs to unite, perhaps it will take thousands of years?
President Assad: We wait for thousands of years… but this is a principle if we are looking for an added value. Therefore, I said at the beginning that return in itself is not the goal. Return, so that it can be said that you have returned.
Question: Any meeting between you and Prince Mohammed bin Salman that would overturn many equations?
President Assad: This is another issue, so, to continue the issue, when we informed the Algerian minister and the rest of the Arab ministers, First, we will not return unless there is consensus. Second, the condition for return is that there be good bilateral relations so that there is no arena for settling scores. It is necessary to build Syrian-Arab relations, bilaterally, when these relations are normal, then Syria’s return to the Arab League will be an added value and not a negative value for the Arab League. Therefore, I do not think that the circumstances now are favorable for this return before those bilateral steps take place.
Question: You are visiting Russia while it is really confronting NATO in Donbass, in what is internationally known as the Ukrainian war, and here it is called a special military operation. What does this confrontation mean to you and to Syria… There are those who say that American influence has begun to decline in practice, if it is as we have seen China mediating between Saudi Arabia and Iran.. The United States is gradually withdrawing from many regions. Are we really facing a multipolar world?
President Assad: How long does it take to form a multipolar world… How many years, it is a long process because the dominant West, especially the United States, has been waging an war of existence for several years, How do we talk about this unipolar system or about the decline of American influence, when it is definitely retreating, and this does not mean that America is no longer the largest power in the world to be realistic, but when America goes towards an open market and one global market because it is the strongest and begins to decline in the days of Trump, when it goes towards openness in all fields and begins to made embargo on Chinese technology companies, this means that America no longer views itself as the absolute power.
Question: We used to criticize Trump in the past, but it seems that he is a saint compared to Biden?
President Assad: Exactly, and this confirms that this decision is neither a president’s decision nor an administration’s decision. It is the decision of the American lobbies, owner of interests that have begun to lose their absolute hegemony over markets and politics and otherwise, This is one side.. the other side when we talk about the unipolar side, we must define what it is, is it political, military, or and economic one.. I think the most dangerous side is the economic one, and America’s greatest weakness is the dollar.. When the dollar is removed from the top of economic hegemony, then this international balance will change, and then there will be a multipolar world. But if there is a multipolar political and military sides, but the dominance is for the dollar, then the world will remain unipolar.
Question: Returning to Erdogan, we are well aware that President Putin is trying to mediate.. trying to find some a formula.. What did Putin say to you in the Kremlin? Did he perhaps give you some guarantees that Turkey will withdraw and return to its borders in the event that Syria proceeds with normalization? And we return to the word “Erdogan election card, What did Putin tell you in this regard?
President Assad: The Russian policy is a realistic one. First, they did not provide guarantees, and this may be one of the reasons. This is a personal jurisprudence that we know about Erdogan’s policy that no one can guarantee Erdogan for several days.. He changes his policies continuously and revolves in a vicious circle, so I do not think that anyone in the world can take guarantees.
Question: But the recent change is good in that he is ready to open up to Syria and to return the refugees, with regard to Syria, this may be positive?
President Assad: What is the timeframe for that commitment… until the presidential elections? What is Turkey’s policy after the presidential elections? No one knows. For that, it’s all temporary, and there is no such thing as a commitment. It’s all short-term tactics that achieve Turkish goals, not Syrian ones. That’s why the Russians didn’t present such guarantees, and we cannot ask anyone in the world to give us such guarantees.
Kinda/ Baraa/ Mazen