"More dangerous than the report is that the UN Security Council resolution is established on unfinished reports. How is the Security Council resolution built on such report? "‏‏

December 28, 2005‏‏ ‏ 

‏summary: President Bashar al-Assad has given an interview to the Turkish Sky News T.V. Station. His Excellency was interviewed by Serdad Ak Inan.‏‏ ‏ 

Following is the full text of the interview:‏‏ ‏ 

The Announcer : Mr. President, at the beginning, we thank you for receiving us. We would like to start with the Syrian-Turkish relations. December is a very important date for Turkey, after Justice and Development Party assumed power, December 17 was a very important date for Turkey, when the Turkish-European relations started. Following this date, there was an important visit by Turkish Prime Minister (Tayyep Recep) Erdogan to Syria; it was a very important visit for Turkey's foreign policy. Later, there were, however hidden hands trying to obstruct the development of the Syrian-Turkish relations.‏‏ ‏ 

What is your evaluation of the situation now of the Syrian-Turkish relations?‏‏ ‏ 

President : True, there are pressures not only on Turkey, but also on all countries which understand the Syrian position, whether in our region or in other regions, some of them European.‏‏ ‏ 

In spite of this, this relationship did not go at a slower speed that it has been moving at for several years. Seemingly, some issues do not sometimes appear clear, but in essence the relationship is constantly and steadily moving upward.‏‏ ‏ 

There is a conviction by all the Turkish institutions and strata, there is no exaggeration, of the importance of relationship with Syria. This is one thing. The other thing is that there is a conviction by Turkey and many countries in the world of the unjustness of what is happening with Syria these days, and that these pressures have political objectives and have nothing to do with the headlines being raised. I can say that the relationship with Turkey is moving in all the economic and political fields, security coordination, and the natural and historical social relations are also developing and becoming stronger with time. ‏ 

Q : Let me elaborate on the issue. For example, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has made an important and sudden visit to Syria. It seems that Turkey has taken new roles in its relationship with Israel, and there is real shift in the Turkish foreign policy with regard to the Middle East in general. Generally, the foreign policy of the Justice and Development Party may be positive. For instance, I was here when Prime Minister Erdogan visited Syria, and many agreements were signed, precisely a year ago when I was with him. What happened to those agreements? Did they make practical steps in the Syrian-Turkish relationship?‏‏ ‏ 

President : You mean precisely the economic aspect, I think. There are agreements in other areas, but the economic aspect was the widest. Of course, things are moving forward. There could be obstacles relating to the bureaucrat mechanisms whether in Syria or in Turkey. These obstacles delay sometimes the implementation. Syria is now involved in a process of development for many of its mechanisms. With this development, these relations are accelerating. There are, however, continuous regular meetings between businessmen, and between officials in the two countries. It is a matter of time. This is one thing, the other thing is that you must not forget that economic relations are affected by the political circumstances prevailing in the region. Turkey was affected by the first Gulf war of 1991, following the invasion of Kuwait in the late 1990, and after. Syria was also affected. Now, the Iraq war affects, in one way or another, the economic relations and investment in the region.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Mr. President, a year ago in this city, there were strong poetical and sentimental pictures with you, Prime Minister Erdogan, Mrs. Asma and Mrs. Amina. Don't you think that there is a change in Erdogan's position? Aren't you angry at the change Erdogan's policies are witnessing?‏‏ ‏ 

President : In fact, what concerns me is what is relating to Syria. I cannot evaluate the other aspects of the Turkish policy. For many years, the Turkish policy has moved toward openness to neighbouring countries in particular. For us in Syria, we, as I said before, did not feel any change in the essence. On the contrary, you spoke about the visit of the Foreign Minister to Syria a few weeks ago. He came at a very difficult stage that Syria witnessed, namely before the expiration of the term of Syrian officers' going for investigation in Vienna. The visit was before one or two days, and it was for this aim, bringing a bold proposal, namely offering the site of Ghazi Intep as a place for investigation. No other state has offered such a proposal as Turkey's, a bold proposal ... We appreciate this, and I don't think that a change in the relations between Syria and Turkey could have led to such Turkish proposal.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : What are the steps which have actually been taken in this issue, I mean the Turkish proposal, though we will address the Mehlis issue later on?‏‏ ‏ 

President : There were two points. The first is concerned with the place of investigation, the second is related to the legal basis of this investigation.‏‏ ‏ 

There was a Syrian proposal which suggested that investigation be made at a UN site inside Syria, or at the Arab League. There was no final agreement on the place. Of course, we did not reject Vienna or the UN headquarters in Vienna, but we were giving priorities. The Turkish proposal was that the alternative is Ghazi Intep, with Turkey's offering legal guarantees required by Syria. Then, the Turkish proposal was covering the two aspects required by Syria. Of course, these issues have been realized later in Vienna, because the Turkish proposal was rejected by the International Investigation Commission (IIC). But in principle, the Turkish proposal was bold and in agreement with Syria's interest and issues we were demanding.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : But the Turkish proposal was rejected?‏‏ ‏ 

President : It was not accepted by the IIC, but Syria accepted it and regarded it a very good proposal.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Now, we move to the issue of Mehlis' report. This is the first interview after Mehlis' second report. How do you evaluate the Mehlis report? How will it end?‏‏ ‏ 

President : Of course, we have comments on the first and second reports, maybe the conclusions. The report is a narration of meetings with persons, true, and false witnesses. But in the end, it says it didn't finish.‏‏ ‏ 

More dangerous than the report is that the UN Security Council resolution is established on unfinished reports. How is the Security Council resolution built on such report? Here lies the gravest danger, namely in the Security Council resolutions, or the mechanism of taking such resolutions, but not in the report itself- since it is not finished, we have to wait until the investigation ends in order to judge it, with the existence of some observations we talked about.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Concretely, what are you waiting for from the completion of the report? With regard to witnesses, there are many observations on them, but at the same time, acts of assassination are still going on. Samir Qassir and Gebran Tueini were assassinated in the same method former Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated. World public opinion and all people are accusing Syria. Don't you think that this is an international pressure on you?‏‏ ‏ 

President : Yes. In fact the issue is clearly political and has nothing to do with the criminal acts occurring in Lebanon. What we are waiting for from the report is to be a professional report. This means that it, in the end, reaches who is the perpetrator of the crime of assassinating Hariri. Of course, the report has nothing to do with crimes, and the investigation has nothing to do with other crimes; it may be now expanded toward this direction. Anyway, all these crimes are similar, as you said, and as a principle we reject all of them.‏‏ ‏ 

For us in Syria, and because we are fully confident of Syria's innocence especially after the investigations which were made, we think that the report's realization of the final conclusion will clear Syria, in case the report was objective and away from political pressures. Concerning accusations against Syria, of course, as I said before, we reject these accusations and condemn these crimes. But, if we put principles aside and talk about facts on ground, we have above all to think: does Syria have an interest in any assassination act that occurred? We have no any direct interest. On the contrary, we always lose in such acts. We have to ask those who accuse one simple question: Where did Syria gain? On what basis Syria was accused? They are accusing Syria on one single basis, that this person was in agreement or against Syria. This means nothing. Some of those persons are against Syria and attacking it. Some of them have been attacking Syria for more than 25 years. Why does Syria carry out such an act? This is unreasonable and unjustifiable. As I said the subject matter is politically-motivated in the first place.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : There is much analysis about the case of Mehlis, about what are called the old guards in Syria, including Abdul Halim Khaddam and Ghazi Kanaan and about some news stories which said you, Asef Shawkat and your brother Maher has a special meeting to discuss the question of Hariri assassination. Some say there was a difference on the question, e.g; Khaddam is no more a Syrian official and Kannan committed suicide. What are your comments on such theories?‏‏ ‏ 

President : All are a propaganda as there has so far been no clear information on the assassination. They can analyse the way they like. But how did they know the secrets of such meetings between two or three persons. How do they know?‏‏ ‏ 

For example, they set lists of assassination but we ask from where these lists come? Sometimes there is something funny that cannot be dependent upon. However, part of the whole affair is in terms of the political pressure being put on Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

Rafik Hariri was a friend to Syria and cooperative with her until the last moment. But they accused Syria of threatening him in respect with extension of President Lahoud term. Hariri responded to the Syrian request and this means that his stand was not against Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

Some misinterpreted the affairs with ill or good intention. But all what is said are rumours, fabrications and manipulated stories deliberately planned to condemn Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : This means that all matters are interpreted within the framework of a conspiracy theory, and some are trying to create a lot of problems for Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

However and as regards the US زGreater Middle East Project, some say that President Bashar has two options: ‏‏ ‏ 

The first is to denounce the assassination and deliver the one who had connection, if there is really any, and hence gets rid of all accusations. The second option is to refuse all what is said about this affair and be confined internally. Which option is important for You?‏‏ ‏ 

President : I openly declared earlier that if any Syrian is involved in any criminal act, he will be put to trial.‏‏ ‏ 

I also said it is a treason. This subject is not set for discussion. But such option needs legal and objective grounds and should be based on evidence. It must not be depended on the political mood of some states or some of their officials. That is what I had talked about as regards the report, which must bring evidence whether involving a Syrian or any other person in the world. Syria's stand in this context is clear.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : About the Greater Middle East Project, the US tries to re-arrange the region. Turkey was quick in comprehending the US strategies in the ME and began to deal with the new conditions. How is Syria dealing with these and with the American project?‏‏ ‏ 

President : I do not know what do they mean by greater or smaller Mideast. What concerns us is whether any proposals contradict our interests or not. When I criticize a terminology, I do so because it comes from abroad. We are the party in the ME which has to define the terminology. It is our main concern to decide whether we call ourselves a greater, smaller or medium ME. What is important is that the content of the terminology should not contradict with our interests, our normal historic relations and our culture. As an accumulation of history, when culture is encroached upon, negative consequences will destabilize the region. Culture can not be separate from other elements.‏‏ ‏ 

Irrespective of the intention of those who propose such terminology, I think no one outside our region understands our interests more than we do. Proposals must be made by states of the region. In other words, and with respect to views of others, we can not make research centers decide our future. Our history, our interests and our direct relations as states of the region decide.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : In addition to that, in Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad, there is an important agenda, speedy and important steps on the democratic course, but there are forces that are trying to hinder these reforms despite all the personal efforts you are exerting?‏‏ ‏ 

President : You have undergone through similar experiences in Turkey, and there was a long march that passed through different stages, in which there were failures. This is natural, because in any movement forward in a big state inhabited by millions or scores of millions, there must be different opinions, different understanding, and performance for those who are convinced with the process. It is also natural that there will be contradiction among all these forces until the state and the society reach a unified concept of the development process. And this needs time, intensive dialogue and benefit from failure. This is natural. But if we say that development should be speedy it is impossible, because this issue is related to the potentials of the country and the political circumstances in the region in general and in Syria in particular. For example, we are now besieged in all things; in technology, even the companies that might help in the process of development process are prevented from coming to Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

We hear from foreign officials that they are keen on the development in Syria, but, in reality, they are against development in Syria. We have to view things objectively and then we will see the process moving, but not speedily as I said.‏‏ ‏ 

But the important thing is to keep this process moving forward, in short, there might be a slowliness, but not a halt of this process.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Let's move to the US occupation of Iraq which faced a strong resistance, and the US is accusing Syria of supporting the Iraqi resistance.‏‏ ‏ 

Your Excellency told all that the border are open, and I personally visited the Syrian-Turkish border and saw the measures taken by Syria on the border of Iraq, but there are some parties which said that Washington signed an agreement with Damascus to arrest the infiltrators inside Syria at the depth of 20 kms. Is this right?‏‏ ‏ 

President : This question was proposed to us in September 2004 during a visit of a US delegation to Syria, and we said that we do not oppose the signing of a Syrian-Iraqi-American agreement to control the border, but they left with no return, we tried to follow up the issue later, but we did not find any response. So it is not right that such an agreement was signed. We asked them to say what are the details of their demands on the border and we did not receive a reply at all.‏‏ ‏ 

A part from the US interests, we have an interest in controlling the border and there is an old suffering on the Syrian-Iraqi border. But, as you know through the Syrian Turkish border, it is impossible to control the border one hundred percent. Moreover, the border can not be controlled from one side. As you said, Syria has taken measures, but if we look on the other side of the Iraqi border, we will find that there isn't any Iraqi or US measure. The Syrian-Turkish cooperation has made the Syrian-Turkish border controlled to a maximum level, despite the fact that they are longer than the border with Iraq and more complicated from the demographic and geographic sides.‏‏ ‏ 

The border will not be controlled without cooperation, and I believe that there are some groups at the US administration that do not want Syrian cooperation in order to continue saying that Syria is not cooperating. This game has become crystal clear from our part, because they did not ask for any of these things, and because they are not compatible with our interests. On the contrary, we said we are enthusiastic about this cooperation. But they propose the idea and expect us to say No! When we say yes, they escape.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Then what are you going to do? Frankly, I want to understand this question. Faithfully you want to solve these questions according to the balance of existing powers in the region and you look forward to develop relations with Turkey. As a President of the Republic of Syria, what are you going to do under such circumstances?‏‏ ‏ 

President : First, we are going to adhere to our interests and commit ourselves to these interests and principles. The question is a temporary one and there may be threats and pressure and a price to pay for a short period of time. We have to pay a price if we want to preserve our independence. We will not give up this independence. At the same time, I can say that not all things are negative. There is black and white in the question you have asked. As I said in the beginning the relationship between Turkey and Syria represents the white side, and neighbouring countries are important in this question. As regard the relationship with the Iraqi people, they know Syria and understand her stand and that she has no relationship with the question of exporting terrorists to Iraq. Such terrorists come to Iraq from other countries but accusations aim to hit Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

In recent months, the world has become more aware of Syria's stand towards the Iraqi and Lebanese questions. The picture has become clearer, especially after the publishing of the (2) reports of the International Investigation Commission concerning Lebanon. When political tricks are based on allusions and mistakes they cannot stand forever.‏‏ ‏ 

We look to achieve far-fetched goals. The relationship with you and neighbouring countries will continue living for hundreds of years. We have to consider things in a strategic way before paying attention to political games.‏‏ ‏ 

I am not anxious about these difficult circumstances. It is not an easy question, but it will certainly come to an end, and the result will be in our favour.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Seventy percent of the Iraqi people including the Sunni took part in elections, what is the future of Iraq after the election as you see it?‏‏ ‏ 

President : This depends on the constitution and the question of federalism. We consider the essence of the future of Iraq is its unity.‏‏ ‏ 

The future of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, neighbouring countries and perhaps, far countries also depend on the future of Iraq. This constitution must win the consensus of the Iraqis or most of them in order to attain unity. Any constitution can lead to disintegration if it does not win the satisfaction of the majority of the people. Disintegration now in Iraq, as a result of the war on it, will lead to a future civil war or the division of Iraq if there is no constitution enjoying a consensus among the Iraqis. Apart from any supposed civil war, and we of course do not want to see such things, it is of great importance to side with the Iraqi people, taking into consideration their interests and the question of the unity of Iraq in the first place.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Turkey for the first time in 30 or 40 years has decided to reconsider its policies concerning Iraq and the question of the Kurdish federalism in the north approved in the constitution of Iraq. How do evaluate the Turkish stand concerning the north of Iraq? ‏‏ ‏ 

President : New elected establishments may form a different constitution. Many of the Iraqis with whom we meet express their dissatisfaction over this question. As I said, this question is difficult and we and all Iraqis have to understand that any relevant question must enjoy consensus.‏‏ ‏ 

The second point is the question of federalism. Let's not put ourselves in Iraq, replace the Iraqis and say what is right and what is wrong. But I can say, at least, that there are different forms of federations and what can be successful here is not necessarily a success in another country. But with regard to any kind of federation in Iraq based on sectarianism or ethnicism, the result will be the disintegration of Iraq or a civil war among Iraqis.‏‏ ‏ 

If there is a need for a federation in Iraq, it must be based on a national basis, not another. This issue needs much discussion among Iraqis. I cannot define the best form of federation in Iraq. But the majority of the Iraqi people and neighbouring countries believe that a federation based on sectarian or ethnic basis is dangerous and directly influences not only Iraq but also neighbours. In the light of this understanding, the question of the federation in Iraq runs in our interest and the interest of the Iraqis as well.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : This question is seriously under discussion in Turkey. We have a Kurdish problem in Turkey, and I believe there is a Kurdish problem in Syria and the common point between the two countries is the Turkish Kurdistan Worker Party. Turkey tries to find democratic solution to the Kurdish issue through the statements of Prime Minister Erdogan. Is there also a change in the Syrian vision with regard to the Kurdish problem in Syria?‏‏ ‏ 

President : The Kurds are an integral part of the social structure in our region. This issue must be taken into consideration. But we have to separate between terrorist operations or extremist parties from the Kurdish problem. Terrorism must be dealt with separately in any society. The second point concerning the Kurdish problem in Syria is a technical one and it is related to the 1962 census in Syria. This census was not accurate from the technical point of view. There was not, in essence, a political problem towards the Kurdish question.‏‏ ‏ 

We, in Syria, try to solve this problem technically. But every thing relating to this question must be based on a national basis and on the history of Syria which did not change since independence and will not change in the future.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : What about the subject of Israel? You were to sign accord in 2000. I believe Syria wasn't encouraged at that time to do this. Now, Turkey is trying to mediate between Syria and Israel. Is there any possibilities for solving this dispute with Israel?‏‏ ‏ 

President : This issue has a number of facets, firstly the Israelis either on the government level or the people's level do not have any interest, nor there is any serious popular tendency toward the peace process, and this might be attributed to the circumstances in the past years, but of course such circumstances are not an excuse for them to break away from peace. Secondly there is Syria or other Arab parties which are involved in the peace process such as the Palestinians or the Lebanese, but this desire (for peace) has not changed at least for Syria. The issue of peace is still standing on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions.‏‏ ‏ 

The President added: Thirdly, since it came to power, the US Administration has not showed any real desire for peace particularly on the Syrian track. If the US and Israel are not interested in the peace process, we cannot expect any serious move soon. At the same time Turkey tried to play a positive role in the issue particularly during my visit to Turkey, and that was one of the first issues proposed by President Ahmet Nacdet Sezer to me. And I told him at that time that we trust Turkey because she understands our position, and Turkey's position has always been fair with regard to the peace issue and to the Arab issues in general and regarding the Palestinian issue and the issue of the occupied Syrian territories namely the Golan. You can go ahead and we support any Turkish role in this report. There was actually an Israeli rejection of any role because there was no desire in the peace process, and as I said Syria's position has not changed.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Iran has an important role in the region, particularly after the Iranian role in Iraq and Ahmadinejad's statements on Israel.‏‏ ‏ 

How do you evaluate the Iranian role in Iraq or his statement?‏‏ ‏ 

President: I don't want to take part of the picture. Let us take the picture as a whole so that vision will be objective too. Israel has always been and for decades threatening Syria, the Arabs in general and Iran. Israel one time pounded the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, i.e. Israel was always beginning real aggression and threats. Anything you hear in our region towards Israel is a reaction to what Israel is doing and what it says. Thus, we have to be interested in action in order to understand the reaction whether what was declared in Iran or being declared in any other place in our region.‏‏ ‏ 

As for Iran's nuclear subject, Iran has the right to possess nuclear power for peaceful purposes according to international conventions.‏‏ ‏ 

Iran says this explicitly and implicitly that its target is a peaceful nuclear power and not the military. The justification, which we hear from some foreign officials, is that they fear of Iran's possession of military nuclear power. Let us suppose that this wording is correct. What about Israel's nuclear weapons? They say Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads.‏‏ ‏ 

If we are anxious, we have to be so from Israel, firstly because it is the only party in the Middle East which possesses the nuclear weapons.‏‏ ‏ 

On the other hand, Syria's stand was and is still for freeing the Middle East region from all all weapons of mass destruction. In 2003, we submitted a proposal to the Security Council, when Syria was a temporary member-state to make the Middle East region free of WMDs.‏‏ ‏ 

This proposal was firstly rejected by the US.‏‏ ‏ 

If they were anxious about the presence of WMDs, let them approve the Syrian proposal, or to keep dealing with the region in double-standards, may be much more double. They have scores of standards as I believe. This wording will not reach a result.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Let us look at the picture in general, for example; the so called Shanghai : Russia : China bloc. There are endeavours for new bloc. In Latin America, there are governments and new presidents against America. How do you view these regional changes? How does Syria view these changes?‏‏ ‏ 

President : Of course, I see any bloc at the level of the world as positive, not as negative, particularly that the small states view these blocs positively more than other states. We believe that the world, throughout history, lived on balance of powers: two or more powers. I believe for the first time, according to history, there is a one power. No doubt the superpowers have felt this danger. We felt it earlier and paid the price early. I believe these blocs are a natural reaction to control by a one power of the decisions of the whole world; maybe not only of decisions but also of the attempt to control various natural resources.‏‏ ‏ 

I view these blocs positively and believe they are natural.‏‏ ‏ 

Q- Do you consider approaching these blocs through‏‏ ‏ 

bilateral or collective agreements? Do you consider any practical steps to approach these blocs?‏‏ ‏ 

President:This is natural. We cannot live isolated from the world around us. We have to be part of this movement and positive dynamism which is taking place at world level. You are working now to be part of Europe.‏‏ ‏ 

Although Turkey has made considerable strides in development in the past decades, still, your interests lie in being part of these major blocs. Syria is moving in the same direction too. The Syrian move will be made through a partnership agreement with the European Union (EU) rather than forming a part of the EU. A partnership agreement is a move forward in this direction. There is a joint Arab market. There are other blocs taking place in Asia. We have to be part of them.‏‏ ‏ 

Q- Turkey is according a great attention to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) which is viewed as an alternative or rival to the United Nations. Turkey is looking forward to an Islamic and Arab support in this organization.‏‏ ‏ 

President : I don't view the OIC as an alternative or rival to the United Nations.‏‏ ‏ 

I believe that the two organizations are complementing each other. When the UN is turned into a tool in the hands of some big powers away from the concepts of peace and justice which are part of the UN charter; such organizations and blocs become an alternative to the UN. Apart from the role of the UN, concentration must be made on the OIC which is extremely important in the light of the cultural conflict which is going hand-in-hand with the conflicts taking place at the political and the economic levels. This kind of conflict is apparently targeting Islam. There is attempt to distort the image of all Islamic states on the basis that all Moslems are extremists and terrorists. I believe Turkey and Syria can play a very important role in clarifying the true image of the real moderate Islam. This makes me believe that the OIC is important in all fields. ‏‏ ‏ 

Q-Turkish people would like to know more about Bashar al-Assad as a person, what would you tell them in this respect?‏‏ ‏ 

President: Do you refer to the times of work or when I have leisure time?‏‏ ‏ 

Q: I'm referring to the free time, of course. I'm talking about the time you spend at home, and about your practice as an ophthalmologist.‏‏ ‏ 

President: I lead a quite a normal life with my wife and kids at home. However, I practice sport on a regular basis. I also practice photography as a hobby. This may have something to dowith the practice I lead as an ophthalmologist.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : As far as photography hobby is concerned, have you moved to digital cameras?‏‏ ‏ 

President : I've moved completely to digital cameras three years ago.‏‏ ‏ 

Q : Do you practice photography hobby on the street?‏‏ ‏ 

President : It is difficult to do so now, photography is now limited to my family.‏‏ ‏ 

Q- Many Turks, or some of them, accuse Syria that an Alawite family rules Syria. But, we know that your wife is Sunni. So, does this choice have a meaning for Bashar al-Assad.‏‏ ‏ 

President- No. What rules Syria is the national condition. Should Syria be ruled by the sectarian or ethnic logic, you would not have found Syria as it is now. This is a historical case. However, you may better assess this matter through the Syrian people, who can give you a more objective outlook on such matters. But these matters are totally rejected in Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

Q-Finally, allow me, Mr. President, to come closer to the year 2006. Would you like to say something to the Turkish people? We expected you to visit Turkey, but you did not. Is there a declared or a closer date for your visit to Turkey? What would you say to the Turkish people?‏‏ ‏ 

President- As for the visit, I had been invited by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and by Prime Minister Erdogan to visit Turkey last summer. We were about to fix the date of the visit in August. But the circumstances in which Syria passed made me postpone all visits at that time. Now, visiting Turkey is a must, of course. In the beginning of next year, I shall respond to these two invitations. They are one invitation, of course, in the name of Turkey.‏‏ ‏ 

In conclusion, I'd like to thank you for visiting Syria. I would say to you, to your channel, and the Turkish people: Happy New Year and many good wishes and many happy returns to all Turks and Turkish citizens.‏‏ ‏ 

I would reconfirm, as I did before, our great appreciation to Turkey, government and people, for its various stances, particularly in these circumstance. We would appreciate Turkey's stance vis-à-vis the war on Iraq, when the Turkish Parliament in the name of the Turkish people refused to make the Turkish territories a launching pad for the war on Iraq. This very stance has proven well Turkey, Turkish relations and the Turkish role in the region, I believe, for decades to come. Likewise, the Turkish people and government have recently proven some stances for Syria.‏‏ ‏ 

We also do not forget that the Turkish people, after decades of trying to detach it from its own culture by some Western powers : as was the case with Syria : has proven once more that it is a true and indigenous people in this region. Both peoples, you and us, can determine the future of this region when we cooperate : apart from other external powers or in cooperation with them should they listen or commit to our interests.‏‏ ‏ 

I greet you once again and I greet all the Turkish people and government.‏‏ ‏ 

Announcer : Mr. President Bashar al-Assad, thank you very much.‏‏ ‏ 

President : Thank you and welcome to Syria.‏‏‏