DAMASCUS, June. 21-2004 

President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday gave a press interview to the Chinese People daily . ‏

On Syrian-Chinese relations and future prospects and on topics to be discussed during the forthcoming visit, the President said any visit certainly helps push bilateral ties forward, especially when these ties are historic and date back to about 50 years ago. ‏

President al-Assad pointed out that the bilateral relations, have passed through several substantial stages which strengthened ties between the two countries as Syria supported China’s national causes and China backed Syria and the Arabs in general. Such mutual support has continued till now and common stances towards such causes have not changed, this thing gives a strong foundation for any future relations between Syrian and China. ‏

The President went on to say the visit is historic not because it is the first by a Syrian President but because it is paid on the basis of such strong foundation. ‏

" China is now a superpower and is very important after the absence of the Soviet Union. China’ s role has expanded across the world and has become more important especially for small countries including Syria. China now is a key element in international affairs. It is very important for several pressing issues and for the Middle East region, for the ME peace process, for Iraq and for terrorism combating." The President said .

"As a great power, China tries to expand ties with world states and to consolidate relations with friendly ones. And as we are one of these important states in the region, the visit is significant."

Regarding topics to be discussed during the visit, the President said: "We will discuss with the Chinese leadership the troubled political conditions in the region as well as economic and tourism issues especially when both countries are ancient ones and have common characteristics of culture."

" Prospects of future relations are wide as China has achieved an advanced development and Syria is now seeking development. China’s experiences in development are leading ones and can be availed of by Syria." ‏

" During the visit, I will tour a number of economic and technological sites, and we will make use of the Chinese experience." ‏

" In the political sphere, there is an already standing cooperation which we can develop to a great extent particularly that the current issues which are fundamental to the world are also of interest to China as I just said, and to Iraq and peace. Peace has been suspended, but Iraq is an essential issue as far as China is concerned. The issue of terrorism may come in the second place. China is interested in these issues and also in peace. ‏

" All these issues should intensify rapprochement and contacts between the two countries on various levels including the political level. In the economic sphere, the first target of course is to increase trade exchange... This is the main thing." ‏

" And as I said, the tourist side is an important thing for us in this visit. There is a touristic activity in Syria that will accompany this visit. Therefore, I think that the area is very wide and I do not know whether we can really cover all these issues in few days. The important thing is that we draw the general lines and mechanism, then after the visit there will be establishments that will pursue the development of the relations." ‏

Regarding the peace development, and China ‘ s role in boosting the peace process in the Middle East, the President underlined that China has surprised many countries of the world." 

The President underlined that Syria has passed through similar Chinese problems but the most important thing to draw attention is the growth rate. China is achieving very high rate of growth which is inexplicable to many but the Chinese can give a clear explanation to what is happening in China. ‏

The President went on to say China has proven that she has her own vision and independence pointing out that the Chinese decision was not affected with what was said twenty years ago. ‏

The President stressed that " if there were no independence and national decision, there would have been no such a growth rate which I think passed 8 percent last year." 

As regards Chin’s role in the peace process, the President went on to say that China is an important country and is a member of the Security Council. China has all the factors of the great power and a friendly country which is supposed to contribute to the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions. ‏

The President underlined that the peace process requires confidence and this confidence is available in the case of China which has independence in decision making that some other countries do not enjoy. ‏

" Sometimes we have countries coming to us with good intentions, the confidence exists, but there is no independency. Such factors exist in China. Therefore, we also want in this visit to encourage China to be a state that is more active in the peace process. The process is now in halt; when the US has elections, everything becomes in halt. Here comes the importance of the great powers. This is one of the points we will discuss with the Chinese leaders."‏ 

On the current situation of the Middle East peace process, especially on the Palestinian-Israeli track, the President said: " The peace process is in need of parties willing to make peace. It needs a sponsor as well. The Arab side be it a Palestinian, Syrian or Lebanese, since the Madrid conference in 1991 when the peace process was launched, has expressed in practice, words and political discourse, its willingness to achieve peace, while the Israeli side has not been so. For instance, when the Madrid conference was announced, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said: "we will make negotiations go on for ten years." In other words, he as a Prime Minister expressed his unwillingness to make peace. Now after 13 years, peace has not been realized. ‏"

" The second point is that following the assassination of Rabin in 1995, Israel didn’t have any Prime Minister who actually wanted peace, each one of them wants to prove himself and win the elections through killing more Palestinians or shelling neighbouring countries. This is the policy which is adopted in Israel. ‏

On the other hand, the peace process sponsor has an important role, but Americans are not interested so much in the peace process. The priority for them is the Iraq issue. On the peace tracks, the priority for them is only the Palestinian track. But we say that if the peace process is not comprehensive, peace will not be realized. We cannot say a Syrian, Lebanese or Palestinian track only, since they are interrelated tracks. ‏" 

" We call it a just and comprehensive peace. If it is not achieved, there will be no peace. They always look for peace agreements, which are no more than paper documents, but peace is a world in itself and people, it should be between peoples but not between officials, foreign ministers, presidents or heads of governments. In order for peace to be between peoples, the agreed upon issues on paper must be in agreement with the interests of peoples, and just."‏

The problem of the peace process is that it has broken away from the Security Council resolutions. ‏ Of course, the Madrid Conference embodied the Security Council resolutions, Had work been done on the implementation of the Security Council resolutions and the Madrid conference, there would have been no problem. ‏

The problem of the peace process now is that they (the Israelis) were escaping from the implementation of the Security Council resolutions to partial mysterious and unclear agreements that need explanation." ‏

For example, the Oslo accord. What is taking place in Palestine now is a result of Oslo. They had signed an unclear accord, without implementation. It did not include clear items. It was words only. ‏

Then came Wye River, then Tenet and Mitchell’s plans and now the Roadmap. ‏ 

The peace process needs one agreement not ten. ‏ 

Now after the Roadmap, they talked about the Geneva initiative. If you have the Madrid terms of reference why do you need all this? This is what we have repeatedly confirmed in Syria. They have put forward the Roadmap and many initiatives. We said no, there is Madrid conference, i.e., the implementation of the Security Council resolutions. The basic thing is to return to the Security Council resolutions firstly and to work out mechanism secondly. The natural mechanism is negotiations in order to start these negotiations and to have a proper mechanism, that is the role of the sponsor? How can we deal with a party which hampers the peace process? Israel hampered it and nobody in the world has done anything. When you feel that you can obstruct the peace process why do you walk towards peace? The world must make Israel or any other party implement the Security Council resolutions. It must implement these resolutions, otherwise, it will become isolated. This is our vision of the peace process. ‏

In reply to a question that negotiations between Syria and Israel have stopped. ‏

The President said that negotiations stopped in 1995 because of the assassination of Rabin. ‏

Following Rabin, Shimon Peres came to power and launched a war on Lebanon and perpetrated massacres, namely the Qana massacres, where more than 100 civilians were killed in a shelter. Peres lost the elections and then came Netanyahu who torpedoed the peace process because the principle of peace is land for peace, to restore land and take peace." ‏

Netanyahu said : "peace for peace". This means no land. Therefore, why do we establish peace if the land is not returned? ‏

" Netanyahu went and Barak came. He talked about peace and we responded. Two rounds of negotiations were held in Sheapardstown in the US. He wanted to negotiate everything except land. As you know, the core of the peace process is land. He also ran away from the subject of peace for internal reasons. There was a pressure on him by the parties. In fact, he did not realize peace and did not succeed in elections. Sharon came after. He entered the holy Aqsa Mosque and killed the Palestinians. When he became Prime Minister, he began to kill and is still killing the Palestinians up to this day. The Israelis reject any proposal towards the peace process. As I said, the peace process returns when Israel admits that these lands must be returned completely according to the Security Council resolutions, i.e. to June 4th 1967 lines. This is the only solution. ‏"

As for the effect of the deteriorating situation in Iraq on the security and stability of the region in general and Syria in particular, the President said that the situation is bad in Iraq due to occupation. ‏

The Americans have begun to admit this fact. There is a great deal of chaos. What takes place in Iraq affects Syria in particular and other neighbouring countries in general. The situation in Iraq makes terrorism stronger. The region has become a fertile environment to produce further terrorism. ‏

The Iraqi situation negatively affects the peace process. ‏

There can be no growth when war and chaos prevail. The situation in Iraq directly affects economy and leaves no room for investments. ‏

The situation there affects the psychological and morale status of the citizens. This is due to the fact that there are blood bonds between the peoples of the region. The clans and tribes of the region interact and get affected by what happens to each of them. ‏

The situation in Iraq directly or indirectly affects Syria especially in the long run. That is why we are interested in finding a solution to the Iraqi issue. ‏

On the ‘Greater Middle East’ project proposed by the United States, the President said that democracy has various factors. First of all, there are the internal, social and cultural factors. In the second place, there are external factors, I mean , the international role in solving the peace issue which is very important . This issue is very important as democracy and development do not go side by side with war. ‏

In order to achieve development, the issue pertaining to security and politics should be solved. ‏

At such a point, the internal factors will move in their natural course. One factor cannot be taken out of the other factors. Nobody in the region believes in this US proposal or even goes in line with it. This proposal enjoys no credibility on the popular level neither in Syria nor in the region. ‏

About Syria’s attitude towards combating terrorism, President al-Assad said: " fighting terrorism armies must not be used because terrorism is not an army. ‏

He added that terrorism is an ideology and a thought in the first place and individuals in the second place. ‏

A person may be ignorant and extremism is caused by ignorance. Other elements of terrorism can be poverty. Hence, combating terrorism lies in maintaining consciousness , dialogue and knowledge. When we prevent a person to get knowledge, he will turn into an ignorant and may change into an extremist. When we combat poverty and maintain development, we can reach true battling of terrorism. The last solution is based on security cooperation and not on military actions. Many terrorist events take place as a result of mistaken political stances. The political mistake leads to a terrorist act, and when just and correct political stances are taken, terrorism can be battled. The political combating is far more better than a military solution which only breeds terrorism and cannot combat it. ‏

As regard US sanctions on Syria and Syria-US current and future relations, the President said that such sanctions are a new form of international relations which yields hegemony and interference in a country’s internal affairs. Such a principle is rejected and most states announced their rejection of the sanctions. But the world is influenced and no state lives isolation. So, sanctions can have impacts and it is not yet known whether these impacts are great or otherwise. The Americans are trying to convert the impacts from moral ones into economic and financial ones. We are still maintaining dialogue with the Americans. ‏

On the other hand, the Syrian-US relations are always changing. They were severed in the 1960s and were restored in 1974 when President Nixon visited Syria. Throughout the past 30 years, relations were not stable. Sometimes we reach agreement and at other times we differ due to changes in the American Administration. However, the only thing that remains is dialogue and we hope that by so doing relations can be positive and we hope they become more stable. ‏ We want relations to be stable, but till now they are unstable.

On challenges and difficulties facing development and modernization process, the President said that any development process faces difficulties and obstacles, the first and foremost is the lack of understanding of the process by individuals or people who might be with it. The lack of understanding doesn’t mean that they are against it. We moved in several axes, the first is to develop laws and we are still developing many of them. But the most important is to develop the mind, namely upgrading the level of people especially public employees, to make them realize the necessities and requirements of such development. The third is to make people in general understand development. ‏ 

There are obstacles relating to academic and scientific qualification in certain fields. The first stage witnessed the issuance of laws, now we are at the stage of qualification and sending people to different countries and getting them come back with expertise from developed countries, in order to help us. Many things have been achieved quickly, such as private universities and banks." ‏

The President indicated that the importance of private universities can be felt when the graduates work with high efficiency, and the same applies to the private banks when they activate the economy. Only then we can say that we have got results. The private banks are only six-months old and time is still needed for the big results. ‏ 

Regarding the administrative development, the President underlined that the French sent a work team to Syria and a plan is being drawn up and a time-table will be set in order to see the tangible results. ‏

(SANA)

 

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