"The realization of peace is strategic for Syria. Whatever change in Israel is merely tactical. We have outlined the basics of the peace. When Olmert presented his desire for Erdogan that he wants negotiations with Syria, the dialogue with Erdogan persisted for a year or more, till we reached to the point that Olmert was prepared to return the Golan Heights in full, when he said this to Erdogan, we started the indirect negotiations," said President Bashar Al-Assad, declaring that the Israeli non-serious and ambiguous response regarding the definition of the line of June 1967, especially regarding the points at Tiberius and Jordan, was responsible for the failure of these negotiations. 

"Any peace is to be built on the basis of present realities. Can you tell me that the war of 2006 is not among the new realities? 2006 has changed the map of the region. Undoubtedly a change in the map does effect whatever peace negotiations in every state. The war of Gaza is too one of the fundamental points; it influenced or to influence any political activity related to the process of peace in the future; this is out of question. We, however, can not say that Syria has benefited, with an opportunistic meaning, but rather as a natural consequence like others," added President Al-Assad in reply to questions put forward by the Lebanese Assafir Daily, published Wednesday March, 25th, 2009. 

In reply to a question about reforms, His Excellency President Al-Assad said "We have our national interest deeming the strict application of law. We now have a process of reform with its priorities. What a person would do once he/she wakes up every morning? He/she has first to eat, drink, feed his children; second, he/she needs a good health system; thirdly, he/she needs work and a school. These are the basic matters and are our priorities too. After this comes political reform. If Man is unable to live, value exists neither for eating nor for political reform. First we have to be stable; therefor the priority was for stability." 

"I always calculate steps: evaluate, estimate, and them move to the next step. I work in light of the reality with reason and precision. I do not seek the applause of the West. Even when the Occident gives me standing ovation, I tell them that it is none of their business. We never accept the interference of others, whether positive or negative. We carry out the reform for ourselves. We go forward in a long process that would take long time, would never be quick as far as the political side is concerned," added President Al-Assad.

 

"The Arab reconciliation has started, and is still at the beginning; I can not say that we have accomplished a stride through the latest Arab reconciliation. The Arab situation is still not good, at least until we would reach to Doha Summit to see that the things are better. Our good relations with some Arab countries do not mean the lack of differences, and so as far as our relations with other Arab countries. The most import thing is how to administrate the differences. Every country has the right to have different trends; that the circumstances are different; it is illogical to have identical viewpoints. As Arabs we have to administrate the differences," citing for example, the need for all Arabs as to take a balanced stance on equal distance from all Palestinian factions: " We have to play a mediation role- among Palestinians- and not to say that this side was right and the other wrong. Once one says that this side is right and that side wrong, one becomes a part unable to play any role as far as reconciliation," noting that Arabs have to agree at least as far as the big issues, irrespective from possible differences regarding some details. 

"The Arab role is to outline an approach for the Palestinian dialogue, which would help them and which to be agreed on by two or more Palestinian sides; and then forth the process of reconciliation goes on; but we can not replace them," outlined President Al-Assad. 

"As Arabs we do not have to worry about the existence of differences; we have to worry about the lack of the mechanisms to deal with this difference or about the wrong dealing with this difference transforming it into enmity," asserted H. E. President Al-Assad. 

"The Arab scene before the occupation has been changed with the change of the generations. The Arabs have learned from the lessons of July 2006 War; leaving behind the Land has been very limited compared to any precedent war; the citizens have become more cling to their territories. In Gaza the people are more committed to their land, as well as in the West Bank and during Jenin days" added President Al-Assad in reply to another question. 

In reply to a question about Arabism, His Excellency President Al-Assad said "There is but one Arabism. We have the language, common history, joint interest, or common religions; every thing does group us together. Every person coming to the region, and lives in it becomes part of it. It – the region- contains Arab and non-Arab. Thus, the word Arabism does not mean that one’s father or grandfathers are from the Arabs." 

In reply to a question regarding a possible Syrian mediation role between the US and Iran, His Excellency President Al-Assad said "I do not like the word broker. We try to play a role as to decrease the many problems in the region. We do not play a mediation role. Our relations with Iran are strategic ones; Iran stands with us, whereas our relations with the USA are not strategic, and the USA does not stand with us, it stands with Israel. Thus, the word mediator as to stand in the middle can never be imagined." 

In reply to a question related to the New US Administration, H. E. President Al-Assad said "President Obama has announced a clear stand regarding Iraq and Afghanistan- withdrawal of US troops-. Yet we never hear of a US stance regarding the Peace Process. It is early to judge the US Administration stance regarding Peace Process. There is a need for some time that it is now in the stage of formulating visions regarding the prospects of US move as far as the Process of Peace." 

In reply to a question regarding Iraq in light of the US decision to withdraw its troops from there, H. E. President Al-Assad said "If there were to be a political process including all the colors of the political forces in Iraq, the US exit from Iraq would contribute to stability. If there not to be the political process and the case of confusion to persist, the exit and presence are the same. I am convinced that the condition in Iraq would be improved as far as its domestic situation. There are the political process and the latest elections which given good signals to this effect." 

"There is a consensus worldwide that the US could never remain in Iraq, while it feels relaxed," said His Excellency President Bashar Al-Assad recalling his saying six years back that the Us would win the war against Iraq and get sunk in the sand, and that the resistance would be launched" 

"We are keen on Iraq the Arab and united. The Arab Iraq is united. The Arab identity of Iraq does not contradict any culture, race, religion, or any sect which exists in Iraq." reiterated H. E. President Al-Assad. 

In reply to a question regarding Lebanon, President Al-Assad said "Our relations with Lebanon are, for sure, better than before; they, however, go slowly because of the Lebanese condition and not because of Syria. We are open to Lebanon as institutions. Bur as long as there is a division in Lebanon, we prefer the relation to remain very official, as not to get Syria involved, especially when there are some who try to use the name of Syria in every problem in Lebanon. We want to be on safety distance" asserting that Lebanon is to be governed through accord and that Syria is not to deal with any case in Lebanon that would represent disaccord. 

In reply to a similar question on Lebanon, H. E. President Al-Assad said "The Syrian experience – in Lebanon- had clear objectives as to protect Lebanon against dismemberment, restore its stability unifying it. Till the 90’s the experience was a success; when Syria left Lebanon, it was united and to this effect, Syria has succeeded. The liberation – of Lebanon- took place in the year 2000. Syria has played a fundamental role to this effect. Consequently, the objectives of the liberation and unification have been realized." 

In reply to a question regarding the past US-French pressures against Syria as far as Lebanon, His Excellency said "The threats against Syria began before the war- US war against Iraq- if you were not to support us in the war, you would pay the price; our response was clear that we are ready to pay the price. If we were to support your war, we would pay a bigger price," asserting that the French coup in support of the said US stance had expanded the scope of the coup, citing as one of the reasons for the then French coup was the Syrian rejection for French bids to impose its unilateral interests as far as oil contracts in Syria. 

"UN resolution numbered 1559 came as a result for a meeting between Presidents Chirac and Bush as to mass up the world countries against Lebanon and Syria. They believed that 1559 would lead to depose the regime, and that Syria without Lebanon with the Syrian Army in Lebanon would fail. They have imagined so" added President Al-Assad reiterating that the then extension of President Emile Lahoud Presidential term has no relation whatsoever and nothing to do with the said resolution. 

His Excellency President Al-Assad spoke of some mistakes, whether from Syria or Lebanon, as far as bilateral relations between both sisterly countries, especially after the year 1990. 

In reply to a question regarding the latest visit of General Michael Aoun to Syria, President Al-Assad said" General Aoun did not visit Syria as an official Lebanese official; he is a member of the Parliament and at the same time a leader from the opposition, who has played a basic role in the Doha Accord; whereby his approval was basic for accord leading to the presidency of President Michael Suleiman. It is not a common norm in the Lebanese politics where a person renounces his personal interests for the national interests," citing the popular spontaneous reception of General Aoun in Syria. 

"Our doors are open; the Lebanese side who wants to open relations with Syria has to move that the doors of Syria are open. We, however, do not deal with whoever does not believe in the Arab Lebanon, or whoever sees Israel as not an enemy, nor supports the resistance. Our political stances are clear; we have no problem with whoever shares our declared stances" reiterated His Excellency President Al-Assad.

 

Edited & Translated by

Mohamad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

Rome, Italy, March 25, 2009.

 

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