" I think priorities lie in existence of a unified vision upon of the Arab region's future, particularly after the latest developments that had happened in our region… I think that top priority now following Iraq issue and terrorism spreading is stability issue because all of us have become targeted… and stability is the top priority and this is connected with the political and security side."

 

October 07, 2006

President Bashar al-Assad has stressed Syria's desire for consolidating the Syrian-Egyptian-Saudi axis in support of the Arab causes.

In a comprehensive interview given to the Kuwaiti newspaper 'al-Anba and published Saturday, President al-Assad talked about Syria's stances towards the regional and international developments.

Answering a question on the priorities regarding the Arab concerns the President said:" I think priorities lie in existence of a unified vision upon of the Arab region's future, particularly after the latest developments that had happened in our region… I think that top priority now following Iraq issue and terrorism spreading is stability issue because all of us have become targeted… and stability is the top priority and this is connected with the political and security side."

He added that another priority is the economic situation which also is linked to political and security condition as to the Arab relations as a whole … I think that all priorities are connected with each other but they change in accordance with circumstances .

Regarding Syria's position among moderates and extremists, in accordance to the US Secretary of States classification, President al-Assad rejected the idea of camps that, as he said, has been created by the Americans." I don't put my self in camps… I put myself with the Arabs, because some had tried to show that Syria, through these camps, is out of the Arab camp… any camp is bad… any camp is rejected, as an Arab I hope that we will not be divided into camps, "

" I reject to be from the first camp or from the second camp. I am from the Arab camp."

" As Arabs if we have viewpoints this is good thing and must be respected if we didn't agree on every thing …we are humans and some disagreements remain between us but through dialogue we bridge the gap… we have to enhance dialogue and not to be a fuel for the international struggle whether Arab against Arab or Arab against others,"

On a question whether the meeting of the GCC foreign ministers and those of Jordan and Egypt was directed against Syria, the president indicated that Syria did not consider that such a meeting was against Syria and said:" No on can convince me that these Arab countries met to stand or conspire against Syria."

 The president added that on the contrary we hope that all the Arabs meet with any one in the world because we expect them to talk about what achieves the Arab interests, and what the Kuwaiti foreign minister said about representing Syria at the talks was based on a general rule and there was not prior coordination.

With regard to the Arab countries stances regarding each other , the president said that that this is the core of the issue , we should accept to have differences , and if the Arabs have identical view points there is no need for them to meet. The Arabs should sit and talks without protocol because they have the same nature and mentality.

On how the inter-Arab relations should be, the president indicated that the dialogue among the Arabs should be more comprehensive and accepts the differences and said :" In my relations with the Emir of Kuwait ,President Mubarak , or King Abdullah , we do not agree on everything but there is no problem with this . and if I do not accept the view point of an Arab leader this do doesn't mean I oppose him personally. And the best thing to do is to have an informal bilateral or summit meetings among the Arabs and to have a continued Arab actions and dialogues in order to reach solutions .

On a question regarding Syria's relations with other countries after Syria has managed to reach very distinguished relations with Turkey, the president said :"the Syrian-Turkish relations should be the best example to follow and Syria's principle in this remain unchanged , we always build on what we have already achieve ,but if some layers were unintentionally destroyed , these layers should be rebuilt . This is why we do not have progress in our inter-Arab relations."

Replying a question why Syria has good relations with Turkey and Iran , while she has not similar relations with some Arab countries, the president said that Syria is an Arab state but Turkey and Iran have constant consultations with Syria with regard to issues such as Lebanon, Palestine , Iraq and terrorism, there are certain bases of dealing and there are similar points of view among the three countries , although there may be differences in some details but in the general rule there is agreement.

The president went on to say that that Syria had a conviction that this Arab situation is due to the lacking of a basis of inter-Arab relations. The relations have been built on the personal level which is although important yet they do not replace the level of the state. Syria has good relations with the rest of the Arab countries. Syria has interests that can not be relinquished and that is the only thing that Syria cherishes.

Regarding the peace process and Madrid Agreement, the president said that theoretically 80 percent of the issues were solved and what remained is 20 percent , and the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories doesn't need more than six months if the Israeli are honest toward the peace process .

With regard to the current peace initiatives toward the Palestinians without similar peace initiatives toward Syria, the president said that such a way is an old American-Israeli game to use a track against another track or punishing a party for not activating its track. The fact remains the same , if they want a comprehensive peace and stability , they will need all the parties involved because no body can replace another.

The president said that the Israelis have difficult internal situation and they sometimes search for an illusive action toward peace for internal reasons which have no connection with real peace.

The president added that there are also failures in Iraq and Afghanistan including projects such as spreading democracy and combating terrorism , and preemptive wars.

About the need for a mechanism for a real approach for peace, the president said that will is firstly needed , then there should be a vision , and third a mechanism , pointing out that the will is the most important for the two sides to launch the peace process. But the will is still lacking on the American side which is the cosponsor to the peace process . Former Secretary of State Colin Powel and the US. president said that they are not interested in the peace process.

on the Gulf concerns regarding Iran and the Shiite Crescent, the president said that once again emerges the issues of camps, undoubtedly there are forces in Lebanon that are connected with the US. embassy and form a camp which is required to be there. Hizbullah Secretary General , Hassan Nassrallah was right when he said that he doesn’t take orders from Iran or Syria ,because no one can fight for another or blow himself up for the sake of a cause he has no belief in it , indicating that the western media is propagating these ideas to isolate Iran in the Arab world.

On a question whether a Gulf state is attacked by Iran , what would be Syria's position, the president said that late president Hafez al-Assad replied to this question in the past by saying that he would send his army in line with the joint defense treaty.

On the Lebanese internal division, the president said that the fear is that such a division might lead to civil war which may harm Syria and halting the civil war in Lebanon in 1990 cost Syria a lot of blood and was very costly for Syria .

The president added that the interests of Lebanon should be more important than the interests of a certain militias or a person , and therefore they should not allow anyone to drag them to a civil war, and Syria is working on that.

With regard to the talks with Lebanese Prime Minister , Fuad Saniora,the president said that that three invitations were extended to him to visit Syria , but he did not come.

He indicated that if he meets with Sanioura or any other Lebanese premier, he will tell him to be the prime minister of Lebanon and not a premier for a certain bloc, and Syria will remain Lebanon's brother and will extend every possible help to the Lebanese people since Syria is out of the Lebanese equation now.

On whether there will be a detente in the relations with Lebanon if the truth revealed following the investigation of the international committee, the president said that it is their problem if they link the results of the investigation with their relations with Syria , pointing out that the Europeans have realized this and have began to restore their relation with Syria away from the investigation results.

Regarding Iraq, the president said that what is happening there is a catastrophe and Syria told the Americans that they would win the war but would turn Iraq to a real mess and chaos and there would be bad repercussions on Iraq's neighboring states and even the more distant nations.

The president said that the only way to save Iraq is to have an Arab initiative and with an Arab help away from any other forces including the American troops in Iraq which will not allow an Arab approach to the Iraqi crisis.

On whether the recent terrorist acts in Syria came form Iraq. The president confirmed this and said that such acts did not target the state or the regime but attacked the radio that doesn't share them their thoughts and attacked the US. embassy and the United Nations because they wanted to take revenge for what is happening in Iraq.

He pointed out that the terrorists who were Syrian nationals some of them lived in Saudi Arabia got their weapons from Lebanon and the results of investigations will soon be announced .

On whether alQaeda is present in Lebanon, the president confirmed this but indicated that alQaeda has no organization but is a movement and the terrorist acts that took place in Syria were based on the alQaeda thoughts.

With regard to the possibility of war with Israel for the restoration of occupied Golan, the president said ": Syria expects an Israeli aggression at any time , and Syria knows that Israel has a powerful army with the direct support of the United States. Syria will defend itself . Everybody saw how Hizbullah fighters fought to defend their country. One should be fierce in defending his country and Syria has begun to prepare herself within the available potentials ,but the solution remains in the peace process which is not costly."

Regarding relations with Iraq , the president said that Iraqi President Jalal Talbani met with Syrian Foreign Minister , Walid Moalem and invited him to visit Iraq and this visit will be arranged after the holy month of Ramadan.

As for the Iranian influence in Iraq , the president said there is certainly an Iranian influence in Iraq but such influence is linked to the Iraqi people who want a link with Iran , such as the case with Lebanon , there are forces in Lebanon that want to have relations with Syria.

Regarding Syria's relations with Lebanon , the president said : There is no problem on the official level , but on the popular level there is a problem . The demonstrations which were staged in Lebanon were considered as denial of the Syrian blood and there is almost no family in Syria that has not lost a member in Lebanon's civil war , and even Lebanon has become part of Syria's cause .

The president said that the Lebanese officials should put all the their narrow interests aside, because the situation in Lebanon is very dangerous and no one can stand by Lebanon as Syria does considering its geographic and historic position and should stop betting on international conditions that have sabotaged Lebanon for 200 years now , and bet instead on the interior and surrounding.

Regarding the internal policy , the president said many steps had been taken on the road of development in spite of the attempts to isolate Syria. There also steps to have the first political TV satellite channel in Syria soon . Syria focused mainly on the legislation basis. The priority was given to economy and Syria has started with political development following the party's congress last year.

Regarding the axis of moderation that includes Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the president said that such a gathering should remain but it is not a substitute to the Arab countries. Such a gathering is efficient since the three countries are efficient in the Arab main causes.

The president added that he had always supported such a three way summit but it was confined to consultations, stressing the importance of such summits for the joint Arab action.

The president said that on the personal level there is no harm ever done to him by President Mubarak or King Abdullah , but the three leaders have more important duties and there are hundreds of million who are affected by their relation , so that the three leaders are called on to consolidate this three way axis because after all they will be responsible negatively or positively.