London, (SANA) – President Bashar al-Assad said that inter-Arab relations require bilateral relations, coordination in various fields, and reflecting these relations on existing issues to improve the Arab situation.
In an interview with al-Hayat newspaper published on Tuesday, President al-Assad pointed out that there is currently a new Middle East that has more awareness on the public level that adheres to resistance as a right to defend countries and rights, in addition to being aware of the necessity of good relations among other nationalities in our region.
President al-Assad expressed hope for forming an Iraqi national unity government as soon as possible, one that includes all forces and is capable of protecting Iraq's unity and stability, establishing good relations with neighboring countries, and limiting reliance on the US presence in order to reach its complete withdrawal from Iraq.
His Excellency warned against the vacuum in Iraq, noting that every day that a vacuum exists will cost more as time goes by, affirming that Syria stands at equal distance from all Iraqi sides and is against all separatist forces.
President al-Assad said that Syrian-Lebanese relations are developing well on official levels and that they require further development, voicing concern over the situation in Lebanon and any conflict that may cause damage to it, calling on all Lebanese political forces to maintain constant dialogue and communication.
He affirmed that Syria's known stance towards the resistance is non-debatable and clear-cut, and that any meeting must be based on the stance towards resistance as a principle.
President al-Assad described the Syrian-Saudi relations as good and stable, adding that the basic guarantee for this relation is the direct relation between President al-Assad and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
President al-Assad said that weakness of the Arab role leaves vacuum which allows others to intervene in the Arab issues, and Arabs must criticize their own absence rather than criticizing the absence of other roles.
President al-Assad added that the Syrian dialogue with Iran and Turkey is easy because it stems from logical thinking despite the difference of the geographical angles, pointing out to the distinguished Syrian-Turkish relations in the few last years in addition to the already-excellent relations between Syria and Iran.
On Syria's concerns with regard to fragility of the Arab situation, President al-Assad said "We, in Syria, think that if someone is not fragile but lives in fragile surroundings and lives in a state of waiting for the situation to change, then this is unrealistic. Fragility is a contagious process, and subsequently no matter how good your situation is in your country while you are in a state of interaction with those around you, then the result is that your country will be affected and will become fragile also."
"All problems around us whether security, sectarian or political instability in the general meaning will reach us… so we transfer this concern to positive one by an effective work to change this fragile state around us to a positive state or at least try to reduce its damage… the Syrian move stems from the concern about the surrounding status," President al-Assad added.
On the widespread impression that some countries have more cards if the situation around them is fragile, President al-Assad said "This was the vision… there is no state of instability that you can use to your advantage against others… this is over. I believe we the Arabs learned the lesson, but this isn't enough… this is a step on the long road of learning that we as Arabs need to learn. But the next step is how to resolve problems, and if you don't solve the problem itself, you will pay the price."
On Syria's expectations regarding forming an Iraqi government soon, President al-Assad said "I cannot expect; I can hope… I can't foretell the future," adding that he hopes for the government to be formed soon, because every day of vacuum will have a bigger price with time.
Syria wants good relations with the next Iraqi government
His Excellency said that the Syrian vision since the Iraqi elections ended was that Syria should build good relations with all Iraqi sides for two reasons: the first is because Syria wants good relations with the next Iraqi government, no matter what government it is. The second reasons is that if Syria wants to help the Iraqis if they so desire, it must have good relations with all sides. It's not possible to play a positive role in Iraq if relations are good with one side and bad with the other. That is why we say that the problem isn't about who will head the government… the main problem is how the government will be formed, what kind of national government that includes all forces, and what is the national unity government's program regarding Iraq's stability, the withdrawal of foreign forces, and relations with the neighboring countries, and before these points what is its program towards the relation between Iraqi forces in the political arena… In turn, the national unity government must translate its composition into national unity on the popular level," President al-Assad said.
US presence is responsible for chaos
On the vision of an Iraq having the minimum requirements of decision and independence, President al-Assad said "Through our experience over the previous decades, every arena with US presence changes into chaos and all facts prove that. Is the situation in Afghanistan stable? Was the situation stable in Somalia when they intervened? Had they brought stability to Lebanon in 1983? They created chaos in every place they entered".
"Let's be clear on this point, they are responsible for chaos, and the other point is the shock that resulted from the invasion, it's another shock that creates a vacuum on the formal and public level. This vacuum will be filled with things that might be good as well as bad," President al-Assad said.
President al-Assad added that in the case of Iraq, there are lots of bad things that filled the vacuum because its fundamental character was the sectarian character. The Iraqis, despite their many problems, proved so far that they are not sectarian and don't want sectarianism.
President al-Assad said that of course there are some sectarian forces trying to devote the sectarianism to have a position and a site, but in the absence of sectarianism, the role of these forces will end because they are trying to devote the sectarianism for their political future.
President al-Assad noted that there are many positive signs for the future of Iraq as long as it is assisted and as long as it has the determination on all levels to prevent sectarianism, reduce the role of occupation forces until they leave, and establish good relations with the neighboring countries.
US is the problem in Iraq, not Iran
On Syria's stance towards the Arab impression that Iraq lost its immunity as a state to the Iranian role, His Excellency said "When we as Arabs are absent from our role in the Arab arena we mustn't criticize any other role without exception… on the other hand, is the Iranian role a problem while the US role isn't a problem?"
President al-Assad added "Any foreign role in Iraq is not positive, as the basic role is the Iraqi role, but when this role is weakened for particular reasons… the US role exists in a state of vacuum created after the war and the invasion. We must be objective… we cannot say that this is a problem caused by the Iraqis… the Iraqis must overcome this stage. But when we say others from outside we cannot talk about anyone while the US created all the problems in Iraq. First, we talk about the US, then we talk about our absence, and then we talk about anyone else if we want to criticize any role.
"What if Turkey wants to play a role? Should we be angry, or is it because it's Iran? We're coordinating with Turkey, so why are we hearing about a problem with the Iranian role and nothing about the Turkish role despite that Turkey, like Iran and Syria, is interested in the Iraqi situation whether positive or negative."
Syria is with all the Iraqis, against separatist forces
President al-Assad affirmed that he and Nouri al-Maliki agreed to have good relations between Syria and Iraq and turn over the page of the past which happened last year. On the situation inside Iraq, President al-Assad said "we agreed to clarify the Syrian stance because many political forces in Iraq attempted in recent months to translate or explain Syria's stance – whether there was a stance or not – as if Syria stands with specific sides or against certain sides. There was a clear stance that Syria stands at equal distance from everyone, and that Syria is prepared to participate and help in connecting the Iraqi forces with each other in order to form the government soon.
On including all Iraqi components in the government in a manner allowing for repairing relations within the Iraqi government, His Excellency said that a national unity government must include all components as long as none of them are mere decoration but actual partners.
On the existence of a Syrian and Turkish desire to weaken the role of Kurds in Iraq, President al-Assad said "No… we are against all separatist forces in Iraq in any direction they take… we are against the fragmenting of Iraq… our main concern after the invasion is Iraq's unity… it's number one… Iraq's unity and Arabism… all other issues are side issues or details," stressing that if unity and Arabism aren't resolved then nothing will be solved, noting that separatism exists in more than one party and not just Kurds. "We stood against all separatist thoughts through what we did, we and Turkey and Iran," His Excellency pointed out.
On stressing the Arabism of Iraq and if that creates some difficulty in dealing with the Iranian role in it, President al-Assad "No, we haven't seen any problem in that direction until now. We cannot ask Iran to be an Arab country. We have to respect its nationality as it respects ours, and this is Syria's relation with Iran."
President al-Assad added that "We are accused of excessive adherence to nationalism, and our relation with Iran is always good. If Iran has a problem with Arabism then we'll have problem with Iran. There has never been a problem between Syria and Iran but the problem is that we, Arabs, always explain our shortcomings in a particular theoretical manner. In our shortcomings, we throw the responsibility on the others' vision of Iraq's Arabism or unity. The problem with Iraq with regard to Arabism is the absence of the Arab role."
On the possibility of an identical Syrian-Iranian stance on Iraq and Lebanon, President al-Assad said that generally there is no identical stance between any two countries regarding any issue, and if there is such identical stance "I wouldn't have met the Iranian officials repeatedly in two summits within a short time."
"Regarding Lebanon, we can't compare… the geographic relation between Syria and Lebanon isn't like the geographical relation between Iraq and Iran… the situation is different," President al-Assad said, pointing out that Iran doesn't enter in the details in Lebanon but rather the general issues, such as its interest in the role of resistance.
"In this framework, we can say that yes there is identical stance regarding what we propose on the necessity of having good relations among the Lebanese forces and Lebanese dialogue and stability… there is agreement regarding these terms, but the difference is that Syria knows the Lebanese details more than Iran in the past years and decades," His Excellency said.
Repercussions of former US administration created crises on the global level
On whether Arab weakness is one of the features of a new Middle East, President al-Assad noted that the Arab situation wasn't exactly good before the new Middle East, as the Arab situation has been in decline since the seventies, saying that the repercussions of the former US administration created crises on global levels and particularly in the Middle East, showing the severity of Arab weakness which isn't apparent in normal times.
More adherence to resistance
"Yes, there is a new Middle East vis-à-vis this bleak vision which I spoke of in my speech in 2006 several days after the Israeli aggression on Lebanon… I began the speech by saying we are now at the threshold of a new Middle East. But this is not the Middle east they talk about… there is more awareness on the popular level, there is more adherence to resistance and an awareness of the necessity of good relations between us and other nationalities in the region.
"We have neighbors… we interacted with these nationalities throughout our lives … Even if we disagree with them, there must be awareness and dialogue… I always stress this point. Everybody commits mistakes, but rather we hold dialogue with them," President al-Assad said.
Dialogue with Iran and Turkey is very easy
On whether Syria's relation and negotiations with Turkey are easier than with Iran, President al-Assad said that this isn’t true for Syria as dialogue with both sides is very easy which is why Syria managed to build excellent relations with Turkey in a few years.
Regarding relations with Egypt, his Excellency said that it seems that inter-Arab relations are more difficult than Arab relations with non-Arabs, which is unnatural and we recognize this.
On whether the Syrian-Egyptian relation is suffering from a personal issue on the Presidential level, President al-Assad said "Personally, I didn't ask anything from Egypt and I don't want anything from it. If we are politically different, then there is nothing new. We basically stood against 'Camp David' and we haven't changed our stance ever since. We, in Syria, say let us separate the personal relation from the relations between the two countries, and the political relation from the economic relation. There were Syrian Ministers in Egypt recently, and an Egyptian delegation is scheduled to visit us soon. We are also preparing for the Joint Committee meeting."
President al-Assad added that on the political level, there is a big difference between Syria and Egypt with regards to the points of view, adding that "For us in Syria there is no problem, but maybe some Egyptian officials have problems with that, still I can't answer for them."
On whether there is Saudi efforts to improve the Syrian-Egyptian relations, President al-Assad pointed out that there was an attempt at the quartet summit with the Emir of Kuwait, President Mubarak and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, adding that there were no other attempts after that.
On whether the problem in Syrian-Egyptian relations is Lebanon or Palestinian reconciliation, President al-Assad said "We don't know what the problem is, which is why I said I don't want anything from Egypt… To get the full picture you must ask the Egyptian brothers about what they want from Syria," adding that launching the Syrian-Egyptian relations requires initiatives that may seem formal at times but are necessary in political and diplomatic relations.
Regarding the recent summit with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, President al-Assad said that the main issue of the summit was Iraq as it came after meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, noting that all these countries are united by the issue of Iraq and are concerned over it.
"There have been fast dynamics in Iraq in recent months, particularly after the elections… there were alliances, statements and sometimes vague images… For us, we either cannot explain their indications or we sometimes don't pick up these indications, which is why there was intense dialogue between us to explain what is happening in Iraq," His Excellency said, adding that the conclusions reached through dialogue with the various sides were discussed with the Saudi side.
Syrian-Saudi relations are good and stable
On whether the Syrian-Saudi relations are immune to relapses, President al-Assad affirmed that they are good and stable, noting that there weren't much affected despite going through difficult conditions, and that the personal aspect was the main guarantee for this relation, with the direct relation between him and King Abdullah being the main guarantee.
President al-Assad said that the meeting with King Abdullah wasn't restricted to Iraq, but Iraq was the main goal or motive for the summit, and we have talked about everything.
On the attempt to separate Syrian-Saudi relations from the Lebanese issue, President al-Assad said "no… separation is not objective… relations among Arab countries require two things: direct bilateral relations, and coordination in various fields, and how we reflect these relations on the existing issues whether through good intentions to improve the Arab situation by this general speech or through issues that cause concern.
"We have interests in coordination among those countries regarding those issues… when I said that there was concern over the situation in Iraq, its division or the sectarian situation, it's natural to seek alliances in order to cooperate on solving this problem. The same thing goes for Lebanon… it's in our interest to maintain Syrian-Saudi coordination, and we have no interest in separating the relation from the Lebanese issue," His Excellency said.
On Riyadh Summit's dealing with restoring contacts with al-Hariri, President al-Assad said that there is no problem or alienation between him and Premier al-Hariri, but the problem is that there were expectations in Lebanon that Syria will interfere in every problem.
"I was clear with all whom I met in Lebanon including al-Hariri that Syria has no desire to enter in the Lebanese details, particularly when we see that there is no Lebanese desire in a solution…On the other side, undoubtedly Syria was many times accused of interfering in Lebanon… when the Lebanese agree upon a Syrian role, we are ready. We don't want to interfere unless there's a big solution. Maybe all those details created a sort of alienation as if Syria went far away… we didn't really go far, but developments in Lebanon showed that we have moved away because we don't want to enter in details."
Syrian-Lebanese political relation needs development
President al-Assad said that the Syrian-Lebanese political relation needs development, and this depends on the institutional relation as we have agreed with al-Hariri , this institutional relation is going well, so when there is a problem in Lebanon, we will have a roof that we can't exceed in this relation.
On the judicial warrants, President al-Assad said "Since my first meeting with al-Hariri during his first visit to Syria, I was clear that these issues, which even began before his first visit, went to judiciary…and whatsoever the judiciary suspends this issue, there must be a verdict…this was part of the process that began before the relation with al-Hariri and continued… and it had to end that way."
"In Lebanon, they interpret everything politically, but if we want a political explanation, can anyone of those who considered the warrants a Syrian message to al-Hariri, explain the content of this message, the timing of this message or the basis of it. I challenge them to interpret or give any practical content or timing that leads a message benefiting Syria. These talks are not logical, I've looked for a message, even in media, and I found nothing but accusation of Syria, and that's why I don't want to link the warrants with the prevailing atmosphere in Lebanon," President al-Assad said.
On the prevailing atmosphere in Lebanon, President al-Assad said that this atmosphere doesn't serve Syria, saying that "if we want to connect the timing of the warrants to the atmosphere, this doesn't offer any service to Syria. It is a judicial process that is moving normally," noting that once this process begins it must move in a particular direction.
As for the possibility of reaching a formula to protect Lebanon from the indictment or the tribunal or if there is an umbrella with Saudi Arabia, His Excellency noted that some Lebanese powers propose that a preliminary decision will be for a normal crime, but in a national crime, in a country divided by sectarianism, it could destroy the country, which means that if the goal was to accuse individuals, why it couldn't be based on evidence rather than accusation? You need evidence… this is what some Lebanese powers are proposing, and it's convincing."
President al-Assad affirmed that Syria doesn't support the use of force to end the current crisis in Lebanon… "Force always brings more destruction and ruin, and any conflict from any party will destroy Lebanon… at the same time, reality doesn't care about our desires but moves according to facts that affect it… we must not be dreamers or romantics to live on wishes… we wished that none of the conflicts had happened in the last decades in Lebanon, but they did… now we are not ruling out, don't wish or want, reject or condemn… now we can only work to prevent Lebanon from reaching this state.
On relations with Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt, President al-Assad said these relations are good and there is transparency…I believe that the latest years were enough to clarify what was unclear on the Lebanese, regional, Syrian and international levels… the latest responses by Jumblatt or his fellows in the Party regarding the US role and confused tours were clear… I believe that the political line became clear for him… Jumblatt returned to the one whom we knew for a long time.
If Syria is concerned about media talk on the resignation of al-Hariri, President al-Assad said "We believe that Saad al-Hariri has the ability to overcome the current situation… in the current crisis he is capable of helping Lebanon… I believe he is the most suitable person for this difficult stage… he can visit Syria at any time."
His Excellency stressed that the Lebanese government always reflects the political situation in Lebanon, which is currently not good and rather worrying… if there is no dialogue and contact among the political powers that result in an agreement on certain points, goals and tracks, then any government would be ineffective.
Resistance is non-negotiable
President al-Assad affirmed that Syria's stance regarding Resistance is known … Resistance is non- negotiable… the road goes through the resistance… if a party is against the resistance, how can I sit with anyone who is against it when I am with it? The point of meeting with any side should be the stance towards the resistance, it is not Hezbollah… I'm not talking about Hezbollah but rather resistance as a principle, not a Party."
On the retreat of the Christian role in Lebanon and the sensitivity among its sides, His Excellency said that this certainly causes concern to Syria both on the short term and the long term, because if they don't treat it at the short term, it will escalate and Lebanon will be shifted into sectarian cantons as was planned in the eighties, not only in the seventies.
President al-Assad added that as for the Christian situation in Lebanon, what weakens it is the Christian division… during the last 20 years or more, the Christian division contributed to weakening the role… in the final analysis, the Christian factor is one of the basic factors in Lebanon… any change in this factor or in its position will lead to changing the whole situation in the Lebanon image that will, in turn, negatively affects the other communities in Lebanon.
President al-Assad added that the status of the communities in Lebanon is connected to each other and affects each other… we are concerned about any change… the image in Lebanon regarding balance among sects retreats.
On the relation with Head of the Change and Reform Parliamentary Bloc Michel Aoun, President al-Assad described the relation as good, clear, and trustworthy, adding that Aoun was always clear with Syria even before his visit to it.
On reports about a change in the Lebanese government and Syria's rejection of any deterioration in security in Lebanon, President al-Assad said "That's true, but concerning the change, I didn't hear any Lebanese side that has a desire in changing the government… I think that was media talk only and in the framework of escalation.. We have met in Syria most of the Lebanese political sides in the last two months and we have never heard about a suggestion that calls for a change.