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The Intreviews: President al-Assad to al-Hayat Newspaper: We Reject anything Against our InterestsPalestinian National Unity Depends on Ending Foreign Interference

President al-Assad to al-Hayat Newspaper: We Reject anything Against our InterestsPalestinian National Unity Depends on Ending Foreign Interference

Oct 28, 2010

London,(SANA)_President Bashar al-Assad stressed that Syria rejects to say yes to any side except with regard to what comes in line with its interests, underlining that the clarity of Syria's stances towards the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi issues and the resistance doesn't comfort some powers and this is an old and not a new matter.

In the second part of his interview with al-Hayat Newspaper, President al-Assad reiterated that the Israeli government is not able or ready for achieving peace.

"The most important decisions taken by Syria over the last stage are to reject the American dictations after the American invasion of Iraq and to face everything that stands against Syria's interests without any exception," President al-Assad said, indicating that the practical change in the American stance during the reign of Obama Administration is to abandon the policy of dictations.

President al-Assad considered that Syria's strategic vision on connecting the five seas /the Red Sea, Caspian Sea, Black Sea and the Arabian Gulf/ has started to come true through achieving connection regarding electricity and gas, underlining the importance of all of the related countries in pushing this vision towards the complete implementation.

President al-Assad considered that achieving the Palestinian national unity depends on ending the foreign interference in this file and making it Palestinian par excellence and not regionalor international.

The President indicated that his visits to the neighboring countries and other countries in the world come in the framework of enhancing relations with these countries, saying" We focus in the first place on the neighboring countries, and on the regional level and at the international forums."

President al-Assad underlined Syria' supportive stance of Yemen's unity, stressing the importance of correcting the mistakes if there are any, calling for not undermining the achievement which realized the unity.

President al-Assad denied that Syria turned its back to the European countries, affirming keenness on developing relations with these countries and expanding relations with other ones and with the rising powers in the world, calling upon the Europeans to activate their role in the Middle East.

"The obstacle which hinders the return of semi-normal relations between America and Syria is our rejection to say yes to any side, including America except if we are convinced and if this yes expresses our interests…This is the problem, therefore I think that this thing will create a problem in different issues…We have a clear stance towards the Palestinian,Lebanese,Iraqi issues and the resistance…Our stances are clear and doesn’t comfort them…If we don't say all of them, at least a huge part of the US institutions…This is the problem which is old and not new," the President said.

On whether there is any new practical thing in these relations, President al-Assad said "There is nothing practical, and the only thing is that we no more hear the language of dictations, but we haven't seen anything real and serious on the ground yet …but the process of measuring pulse on the issue of peace have started, yet it is just measuring pulse…answer and question…just ideas as there is nothing practical on the ground regarding any issue…not with regard to the bilateral relations and any other issues in which we are interested."

On whether there is any security cooperation between Syria and the U.S.A, President al-Assad said" Currently, there is no cooperation in any issue and the cooperation has stopped since 2005…We connected the cooperation with the improvement of the bilateral relations…We told them that there will not be any security cooperation without having good relations and a political cooperation."

Answering a question on whether the return of security cooperation is subject to the return of the Ambassador, President al-Assad said" No, because the issue of the Ambassador is up tothem...We have an Ambassador in America, and if it wants to appoint an Ambassador in Syria, this issue will be related to it and serve it…The absence of American Ambassador in Syria doesn't harm us…The mission of our Ambassador in America is to serve our interests and not the opposite…Appointing an American Ambassador in Syria is just a matter of formality expressing an indication…It is an indication but not a practical thing."

Commenting on whether there is a Syrian disappointment regarding US President Barack Obama, President al-Assad said" No, because Obama is an individual in reality, and there are various institutions, lobbies /pressure groups/ and the Congress…I think that that Obama wanted to make achievements…Now Obama is trying to do something on the track of peace, butan American President is not able to realize major achievements without being supported bythe institutions."

Replying a question on whether the estrangement between Turkey and Israel bothered Syria, President al-Assad said "No, because Israel and the coming of this government at the beginning of last yearstarted a campaign on the level of the countries concerned, particularly in Europe and among the Americans intuitively to explain and convince themthat the Turkish role cannot remain in the peace process."

Israel is not able or Ready for Achieving Peace, the Turkish Role is Based on the Presence of an Israeli Partner

"This Israeli Government has sought since the beginning to undermine the Turkish role, and the issue of attacking the Freedom Flotilla /Marmara/ was a practical thing which harmed the Turkish-Israeli relations and the Turkish role in the peace process because Israel, before this attack, didn't accept the Turkish role as the current Israeli Government is not able or ready for achieving peace. So, how there could be a Turkish role if there is today…There is an absence of an Israeli partner and therefore I can not play a role in peace and neither does Turkey," the President added.

On whether Syria expects any tangible thing in the Palestinian reconciliation, President al-Assad said" We can see a tangible thing when all the Palestinian parties decide to be subjected to the inter-Palestinian interests and the inert-Palestinian factors not to the foreign ones…When they decide to reconcile with each other, they should reconcile as Palestinians…When this would be a Palestinian filepar exellenceand not a regional or international file, the reconciliation can be achieved …as long as this file, event if only a part of it , is subject to other countries or is affected by other countries, I doubt that the Palestinian parties will reach a final solution in this case."

Replying on a question on Syria's concerns towards the vacuum and problems in Yemen and the Sudan, President al-Assad said" Al-Qaeda isa result ora concept…We talk about of al-Qaeda as an integrated organization…No, it is just a matter of though called 'al-Qaeda'figuratively , but it is a result and not a reason."

President al-Assad added "We are worried about the vacuum which caused this result, and we are worried about the disappointment, the weak growth and development, and the political mistakes and vacuum, in addition to our wrong political performance as officials which led to this result…This is what worries us…These are just symptoms as when you have stomachache, the pain indicates to a problem behind it, what is the problem behind stomachache and not the pain itself."

Commenting on whether al-Qaeda is trying to have activities in Syria, President al-Assad said" Of course, in all places, including Syria…/Al-Qaeda/is present on almost all the Arab and Islamic arenas, it doesn't have an expansion necessarily as it has a presence geographically but it is limited on the popular level…People are aware in this regard.... at least in Syria."

On whether Syria has any information regarding the presence of /al-Qaeda/ in north Lebanon, President al-Assad said "Now, there are no much data on an active movement of /al-Qaeda/ in north Lebanon.Two years ago it had a very active movement, but this doesn't mean that it doesn't have a presence now...As I said, geographically it has a presence on all arenas, and we usually call it / sleeping cells/ and worries come from the thing you don't know, not from the thing you know…Now, there is a communication."

The President added that the thwarted operations in Syria indicate that in the neighboring countries in general, al-Qaeda has activities, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon…The presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq is well known and not a secret, butthey havepresence in Lebanon also…We have a part of the information and we don't know what is the other part…the most important thing is to have integrated information to get a single picture."

Syria Supports Yemen's Unity

Answering a question whether the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh asked Syria's help regarding al-Houthis and the Yemeni issue, President al-Assad said "no, we didn't interfere. Of course, we discussed the situation there and ways to help solve the problem but he asks for nothing. Syria supports Yemen unity."

On the most important decision President al-Assad has taken since assuming power, President al-Assad said "the most important decision I took was when we revealed the American plan following September 11. We said "no" to America on different occasions. I'm not talking about one decision but a number of decisions thatstarted sinceSeptember 11 reaching the peak in 2005 after its attack on Syriathrough the international investigations and the Lebanese issue.

Syria was Required to Make all Concessions in Iraq…We said No… Bargains Started after 2003 to Force Syria Pay for its Stances towards Peace

"Syria was required to make allconcessions in Iraq in order to help the American forces. First of all, we said "no" for helping America prepare for its war on Iraq.After 2003, bargains started to force Syria pay for its stances through making concessions for peace. There were European mediators but we also said "no". All those decisions were important," the president said.

The second point, President al-Assad said, was"when we took the decision to leave Lebanon; it was one of these important decisions as we knew the American game. When the Americans cameafter 2003, they called for closing the Palestinian resistance bureaus in Damascus and expelling its leaders which was their major aim. Our answer was a complete rejection. These were the main goals of America's FormerSecretary of State Colin Powell's third visit to Iraq, three weeks after the invasion. He said we won and these our demands. At that time, Hamas removed banners from its bureaus in an attempt to stand by Syria in this difficult situation. I told Powell that Hamas did so. He replied "youare asked to expel them." I refused and told him to inform America's Former President George Bush that we won't do that."

"In 2005, the confrontation with Syria started. At the same time, I delivered a speech at Damascus University auditorium in November, declaring my decision of confrontation which might be a result of the other important decisions taken. They didn't understand our decisions and considered that the battle was inevitable, so we decided on the confrontation...It was our most important decision."

The president said "we decided to confront any one who stands against our interests without exceptions whether he was Bush, Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair or Former French President Jacques Chirac.

"I watched the fall of Baghdad with the feeling that the American bottleneck has started a long time before that moment. I said that to the Congress members and Tony Blair when I was in Britain in 2002. I told the members who were in support of war and talked about the destroying missiles 'you will win the war and drown in the quagmire.' I said that in an interview with al-Safir newspaper at that time as I said that the resistance will start."

"The image was clear. The most important thing is that we were able to see the sequence of events from the beginning. We told them "you will drown and look for help but no onein Iraq will do so," and that is what happened."

"For me as any Arab citizen witnessing the fall of an Arab capital or country in a few weeks,there wasdisappointment. It wasn't what has been prepared for. There was talk about months of resistance but as it seems we didn’t know all the details about the situation in Iraq. It was completely the opposite," the president added.

On whether Syria took a decision to foil the American invasion of Iraq, President al-Assad said "it was obvious before the invasion since our stance towards occupation is known. Till today, we call them the occupation forces and not foreign forces."

On whether Syria's waiting forms a pressure on the political decision, President al-Assad said "no, there is a misunderstanding of the idea of the Syrian waiting.... that Syria waits and seizes the moment. It is inaccurate. You wait when you know that whatever you do will lead to no where. We move when we know that it is useful to move and the evidence for this is that we have a wide political movement."

On whether Syria has attained assurances regarding respect for the Unity, Arabism and independence of Iraq from al-Maliki, H.E. President al-Assad said '' these are the principles in the Syrian Policy being discussed with all Iraqi forces since the beginning of the occupation till today. To make it clearer, most of the Iraqi forces whom we have met reiterated the same speech; of course, we can't enter into the intentions.''

Syria's Vision on Connecting the Five Seas Started to Come True

In reply to a question about the realization of the Syrian Strategic Vision as to transfer Syria into a center of linkage for the lines of oil, gas, and transport among the five seas: the Red, White, Caspian, Black and Arab Gulf, andwhat has been achieved recently, President al-Assad pointed out that the achieved was electricity linkage, asserting that Syria is part and not the center of the region, which itself has to be the axes, citing the achieved and underway gas pipelining operations among several countries.

Relations with President Michel Sleiman are very Good

In reply to another question, President al-Assad described His relations with President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon as ' very good' and that there is 'periodic communication with him by phone, and 'direct contact and permanent coordination' with him, calling for the existence of 'clear principles' by Lebanese sides, and not for 'gray zones' in the stances of some sides.

Regarding His visits to neighboring countries and revival of historical relations with other countries, H.E. President al-Assad said: '' our focus is always on neighboring countries. When we started with Turkey, we did so because it is a neighboring country, and we are improving our relations with Iraq though of the crisis which happened last year. Our aim is to have good relations with neighboring countries. The same goes with Lebanon and with Jordan, with whom our relations were cool years ago; and today they are warm. We first want the closest neighbours, with whom relations have to be good; there is no interest in having any problem with it.''

"The next phase is when we talk about the Five Seas: all aren’t neighboring countries: Armenia and Azerbaijan are Turkey's neighbors, Cyprus naturally is on our borders, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine are located on the Black Sea. We, through this regional vision, have to build our relations.'' added H.E. President al-Assad, citing the possibility of further cooperation with far away countries and continents like China, South America, and Africa.

Asked about some European countries' feeling that Syria turns its back to them or being not interested in its relations with them any more, giving an example of the Syrian-European partnership, President al-Assad answered…No, it is just a feeling. The difference is that we were as we are still interested in that …now we are broadening our relations with other countries and other regions…the other side of the fact is that there are emerging countries in the world…Emerging economic and political powers, particularly China and India and there is no doubt that our relations with them are historical and our strong relations with the emerging powersare looked at, I do not want to say at the expense of our relations with Europe, but in comparison to the past the relations are not as strong as they used to be.

The Europeans Isolated Themselves from the Middle East

Thirdly, the European side is the one that isolated itself from the region…we did not do that …it has weakened itself in the region and we can not separate these relations from the important role which Europe plays…Europe weakens its political role in the Middle East....the importance of its economic and political relations because it is absent…how could you build relations with a weak side?…the European side weakened itself.

On the forthcoming congress of al-Baath Arab Socialist Party and the expectations of it, President al-Assad said we have two experiences…the success of thecongress depends on the success of the elections preceding it…the fact is that the biggest problem we have faced in ten years, and more specifically in five years, is the talk on election mechanism criticism …or in other words…the elections did not satisfy the expectations of manyPartygrass amd rootsin this framework…the issue we are studying right now iamainly the best mechanism to bring the best people to thecongressbecause, in the end, it takes the decision on behalf of all the party bases.

President al-Assad continued to say "when the congress is not up to the level it will lead to frustration on the party level…the mechanisms we are studying now should represent the Party bases at best…when we reach the congressit would become strong and its decisions have the biggest support on the level of these bases."

The President added "this is the main vision…sometimes, it is better to hold thecongress in a stage of clarity …because you will build a policy adopted by the party for years…there should be more clarity towards the swift transformations which take place in the region or even further…it could be an important axis left for thecongress …there are big headlines upon which the date of the congress will be specified. R.Raslan/R.Milhem / al-Ibrahim/Zahra

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