DAMASCUS, (SANA) - The Cumhurieyt Turkish daily published an interview it conducted with H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad about the events in Syria and regional and international developments. A group of Turkish media, including Cumhurieyt, represented by Utku Cakirozer, Kanal D, CNN Turk and Posta newspaper, represented by Mehmet Ali Birand, and Hurriyet newspaper represented by Ertugrul Ozkok, and Radikal newspaper represented by Fehim Tastekin, and Haberturk newspaper represented by Amberin Zaman, requested interviews with President Al-Assad. Based on Syria’s policy of opening up to the mass media, it was agreed to grant an interview to the abovementioned media organs. However, four of the representatives of these organs were not able to come to Syria to conduct the interview after they were contacted by the director of the office of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, asking them not to conduct the interview.


Following is the full text of the interview:


Journalist: Mr. President, will the current tension in the relations between Syria and Turkey, caused by Syria’s downing of the Turkish aircraft, lead to a confrontation between the two sides, as the Turkish leadership believes?

 President Assad: This period is full of events and developments, and it is a historical period during which the map of the whole region is being drawn. I think this is perhaps similar to what happened a hundred years ago when the Ottoman Empire declined and fell. Then, there was conflict between the Arabs and the Turks. As far as we are concerned, our vision during the past twelve years, i.e. since the first visit of President Sezer to Syria is to change this historical image, to delete it completely from the Arab mind. We have always said that the period of historical differences taught us plenty of lessons. The Arabs lost and the Turks lost. So, it is unreasonable to go back suddenly to that stage so that we lose and you lose. During the past fifteen months, i.e. since the crisis began, we tried to work on more than one front. First, to solve the internal crisis in Syria and confront the terrorists. Second, to try and maintain what we have achieved in the Syrian-Turkish relations. We found that with every speech, with every step, with every decision taken by the current Turkish government there was an attempt to destroy these relations. I can say that they have been able to destroy most of what we have built. But what has remained is the foundation which consists of the relationship between the two peoples. So, in answer to your question, I would like to say that we will continue to work hard in Syria so that things do not reach the stage of confrontation. This confrontation is a losing one for Syria and for Turkey. Nevertheless, I think that this is happening only on the government level. On the popular level, the Turkish people are intelligent and fully aware of what is going on and will not allow – as we will not – things to lead to confrontation. The Turkish people know that this Turkish government wants to drag it to a confrontation for private interests, not for national interests.


Journalist: Mr. President, you said that you will not allow things to move in this direction. What is Syria’s position concerning the downing of the Turkish aircraft, and concerning the statements made by the Turkish government and the Turkish state to the effect that Syria downed the aircraft intentionally and under instructions from President Al-Assad directly?

 President Assad: Maybe they were sitting with me in the same room. This is ridiculous. We should ask logical questions. There are two options: that we downed it deliberately, as they claim, or that we downed it by mistake outside our territorial waters. If there was a mistake, and we downed the aircraft outside our territorial waters, we have no problem to say so and to apologize officially. The Turkish people will understand this. But if we downed it deliberately, the logical question is: what is Syria’s interest in downing a Turkish aircraft deliberately? Do we hate the Turkish people?! Do we want to send them a certain message? This is untrue, because the Turkish people reciprocated our love and affection during the past years. And during the crisis, the largest part of the Turkish people did not believe the claims of the Erdogan government. Did we down the aircraft in order to harm the Turkish army?! The Turkish army committed no aggression against Syria, so why should we attack it? What happened in fact is that the aircraft was downed with the smallest caliber gun used against aircraft. Its range is between two and two and a half kilometers. Usually, it’s very difficult for anti-aircraft guns to down a fighter jet unless it is flying too low. This means that downing it with this type of gun means that it was less than 2.5 kilometers from Syrian land and that it was flying at a very low altitude. In normal situations, and in peacetime, when you see a friendly aircraft from any country of the world doing this, you don’t down it, let alone if it were from a neighboring country like Turkey. But we are in a state of war, and when you do not know the identity of such an aircraft, you assume that it is an enemy aircraft. Usually, this kind of thing is not dealt with at the central level. Because the aircraft was flying at a very low altitude, it was not visible on Syrian radar screens. What happened was the following: we knew that we downed an unidentified aircraft, and Turkey announced the disappearance of one of its aircraft. So we expected that this aircraft was Turkish. No Turkish party contacted us. We contacted the Turkish side. The direct relationship between the Turkish and Syrian armies is fully severed upon a decision by the Turkish side, so we called the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Hours later, we received an answer and rescue boats were sent to the site. Of course, there was Syrian-Turkish cooperation in order to rescue the pilots. But the point which was not talked about is that the place which was violated was the same place which Israel has always tried to violate our airspace through. So this violation on this border point gives an indication to any Syrian military officer that the aircraft might be an enemy aircraft, and consequently he has to respond accordingly based on the velocity of the aircraft, the low altitude it was flying at, and the fact that it violated our airspace. Once again I stress that the Syrian side had no knowledge of the identity of the aircraft before downing it.

 Journalist: The question now, Mr. President, why wasn’t the aircraft warned?

 President Assad: Had it appeared centrally on the radar screen, it would have been warned. But when a soldier is behind his gun, and has no mechanism for sending a warning, and the military rules applied as far as such guns are concerned, are that when you see an aircraft, and you don’t have any information or instructions that an aircraft will be passing from that particular place, you shoot it. These are the standing military rules: the soldier shoots without going back to command and control, because the whole issue happens in a matter of seconds.

 Journalist: Didn’t the aircraft appear on Syrian radars at all?

 President Assad: Maybe it appeared on the radar screens when it was flying at a high altitude and was outside territorial waters. Inside territorial waters, the issue is different, and we all know that, we are talking about 20 kilometers and an aircraft usually takes a minute or maybe less to cover that distance. When an aircraft is flying at a low altitude the radar screens cannot catch it. The evidence is that when the Israeli aircraft that violated the same area in order to bomb a Syrian military site in 2007, Syrian radars did not see them. More importantly, there are no anti-aircraft missiles in that area which can reach beyond the limits of the territorial waters. So, the things said about this point are mere lies made up by some Turkish officials.

 Journalist: The Turkish army said that it is in possession of communications made by Syrian officials on Syrian radars related to downing the Turkish aircraft, and it called on all the countries which possess eavesdropping equipment, satellites, and military bases in the region, like Cyprus, to present what they have in this regard.

 President Assad: Let them publish what they have. But they are lying. We downed the aircraft, and we didn’t know its identity until it was announced by Turkey. Once again, I ask those who are saying this to state what is Syria’s interest in downing a Turkish aircraft? They don’t have an answer, although up till this moment, we are not dealing with the issue in terms of an aircraft sent to violate Syrian airspace. Up till now, we want to assume goodwill, that there was a mistake made by the pilot maybe. We in Syria dealt with the subject as we deal with any other accident.

 Journalist: Mr. President, what did you feel when you were informed that a Turkish aircraft was downed?

 President Assad: Psychologically, it wasn’t pleasant, because the Turkish people are brotherly people, so it is natural that you shouldn’t be pleased if an aircraft was downed unless it is an enemy aircraft. As far as we are concerned, the enemy is Israel only. But on the other hand, we felt that Erdogan and his government want to exploit this accident in order to make political gains they were not able to make last year. They haven’t been able to mobilize the Turkish people behind them on the Syrian issue during the past 15 months. They tried to create a case of animosity between the two peoples instead of having differences between the two governments. And this is a dangerous thing.

 Journalist: Mr. President, you are telling the Turkish people that the aircraft was not downed deliberately by the Syrians, and you gave a different interpretation of the incident. But on the other hand, there are two pilots, two young people, killed in this accident, and they are victims whether they were sent deliberately or unintentionally. So, what do you say to the families of these two pilots, knowing that one of them was going to be sent on a space mission?

 President Assad: Despite Erdogan’s policies which cause the Syrian people only blood and destruction, and regardless of this Turkish government which wants death for our people, we wish the Turkish people well, for it is a brotherly people. As far as we are concerned, there is no discussion about this. When a Turkish citizen dies, this means the death of a brother of ours.  So we offer their families our deepest condolences. We appreciate what we heard from the father of one of these two pilots when he addressed Erdogan by saying “the person killed is my son, and we do not want this incident to be manipulated in order to cause war.” This is an honorable position and is worthy of our respect. We certainly feel for them and sympathize with them. Since they are our brothers, we feel that the loss of any Turkish citizen is the same as the loss of a Syrian citizen, regardless, as I said, of Erdogan’s policies.

 Journalist: Did you wish that the incident had never happened?

 President Assad: We do not wish for such an incident to happen with any non-hostile aircraft, let alone with a Turkish aircraft. But on the other hand, any unidentified aircraft, an in the same circumstances, even if it the aircraft were Syrian, it would be considered an enemy aircraft. These are military rules of engagement, not political rules, and I believe that they exist in most countries of the world.

 Journalist: Mr. President, what do you say to the fact that the two pilots who were killed do not belong to the Turkish government or state. With full appreciation for your sentiments towards them, what do you say to their families and to the Turkish people?

 President Assad: This is natural, but these two pilots are part of the military establishment, and what you are proposing should be done through the direct relations between the two military establishments, and this has ceased to exist completely, i.e. there is no direct relationship between the two armies. There was supposed to be direct communication during the incident, but this did not happen.

 Journalist: Communications are absent in relation to this incident alone?

 President Assad: No, communications were stopped over six months ago by the Turkish government, specifically since the changes which took place in the Turkish army. You know that in neighboring countries, there is always the possibility for similar incident which needs direct coordination between the armed forces. Now the Syrian military establishment doesn’t have the phone numbers of the Turkish military if they wanted to communicate with them for any emergency. When we tried to contact them earlier through the military attaché, he said that contacts should be made through the foreign ministry. This is not practical, but all of that was upon a decision by the Turkish government and not by the Syrian side.

 Journalist: Mr. President, the Turkish side claims that a point of strength for it case is the fact that this is a reconnaissance aircraft which doesn’t carry any weapons or any kind of protection. So why was it downed?

 President Assad: Military rules are not related to the type, task or armament of an aircraft. The fighter or the solider sitting behind the gun doesn’t know whether this aircraft is a reconnaissance aircraft, a fighter aircraft, or whether it’s carrying missiles or not, whether it entered that area by mistake or whether it was carrying out a hostile act. He cannot make his own estimates. But there is a question in return to this question: why didn’t they notify us that there are aircraft approaching the Syrian airspace. Had there been coordination between the two armies, we would have been told about their exercises. Then it would have been easier to deal with such situations. The Turkish side should publically say what this aircraft was doing in Syrian airspace. Nevertheless, we are not demanding these things because we consider it an accident.

 Journalist: The Turkish government now sees that in Syria there is an enemy government and regime, and they started to deploy military forces on the Syrian borders as a result of the last crisis. How do you see Turkey, and what is the Syrian response to what they are doing?

 President Assad: The worst two stages in the Syrian-Turkish relations were in 1998 when Turkey deployed its army, and in the 1950s – I believe in 1955 – during the days of the Baghdad Alliance. Nevertheless, we have never looked at Turkey as an enemy. So it is self-evident that neither today nor in the future shall we look at Turkey as an enemy, even when we have differences with the governments. For animosity to exist between Syria and Turkey, that animosity should exist at the popular level, not at the government level. That’s why there’s no Syrian deployment against Turkey.

 Journalist: Mr. President, there is talk in Turkey about new rules of engagement to the effect that any Syrian aircraft, tank, or piece of artillery coming close to the Turkish borders, will be shot at. What are your comments on that?

 President Assad: No state has the right to fire unless its land has been encroached into.

 Journalist: Let’s assume that a Syrian tank or aircraft was targeted?

 President Assad: This is a hypothetical question, but we do not want things to move in that direction between Syria and Turkey. When they target anything inside Syrian borders, this is an aggression against Syria.

 Journalist: What is you assessment of the Geneva Summit yesterday, particularly the points Kofi Annan talked about?

 President Assad: There hasn’t been any direct contact between us and Kofi Annan or the Russians. But there were clear points in what Kofi Annan and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said. First, that the Syrian people decide, and this is our position in Syria. Violence should stop first, and this is our position in Syria. The armed groups should be disarmed, and this is our position. Hands stained with Syrian blood, as Kofi Annan said, do not exist only in Syria, but outside Syria as well. This shows the role of the other countries which have been involved. These points are essential for us, but the most important thing is that everything should be decided inside Syria, not outside it.

 Journalist: Is there anything you didn’t like in what Kofi Annan said in his statement yesterday?

 President Assad: As long as everything is subject to Syrian sovereignty, anything else can be discussed. We do not like anything that interferes with Syrian sovereignty. Yesterday, Annan said that everything should be decided by the Syrian people, and we are happy with that.

 Journalist: I don’t know, Mr. President, if you followed Clinton’s statement in the press conference in which she said that she understood from what Kofi Annan said that President Al-Assad should go. How did you understand what Clinton said?

 President Assad: For us, what American officials say has no credibility in general. Second, the American position is already hostile to Syria in this crisis. They are part of the problem. They support the terrorists very clearly. That’s why we are not very interested in what this or that official says during this crisis.

 Journalist: What’s important is how you understood what Kofi Annan said, not what Clinton or Lavrov said. How did you understand the result of the Geneva conference?

 President Assad: The basic point which concerns us is that everything should be decided by the Syrian people. This is what we are interested in understanding. This is what concerns us: protecting our sovereignty and non-interference in our internal affairs.

 Journalist: There was talk in the Geneva conference yesterday about a transition in Syria, with or without President Al-Assad, and about internal, regional and international demands that should be implemented in order to complete the reform process. What is your position in that regard?

 President Assad: Regionally and internationally they have nothing to do with us. We do not accept anything imposed on us from the outside. Everything will be decided internally. If I personally were interested in just holding this office, I would have implemented America’s dictates and the demands made through petrodollars, I would have accepted to sell my stances and principles in return for petrodollars, and what’s more important, I would have accepted the installation of a missile shield in Syria.

 Journalist: If this process meant that you abandon your office in order to save your people and save Syria, would you do that?

 President Assad: If the president’s departure is in the interest of Syria, the president should naturally go. This is self-evident. You should never stay in office one day if the people do not want you; and the elections are the means through which the people show whether they want you or not.

 Journalist: This means that you are not thinking of staying in this office forever?

 President Assad: I have just said that the office doesn’t mean anything to me. What is important is what I achieve. I am a person who likes to achieve.

Journalist: Mr. President, Syrian-Turkish relations were excellent in recent years on the political level as well as the personal and family levels between you and Prime Minister Erdogan. Could you please tell us what happened to these relations so that things reached the current situation?

 President Assad: First of all, we have to identify who changed. Look at Syria’s relations with other countries and you’ll find that our relations with Iraq, Iran, Jordan and other countries have not changed and remained the same. On the other hand, you can see that Turkey’s relations with most countries of the region, not only with Syria, have changed. As far as we are concerned, what changed on the Turkish side is that in the first stage of the crisis, Turkey transgressed against the brotherly relations with Syria and started to interfere directly in Syrian affairs, which is absolutely unacceptable for us in Syria. We are an independent country which respects itself and respects its sovereignty. That was in the first stage. Later on, the Turkish government started to get involved in the bloody events in Syria by providing logistic support to the terrorists who have been killing innocent people. The Turkish government started adopting policies which are dangerous both to the Turkish people and the Syrian people. That is as far as the political aspects of the relations are concerned. I will not talk here about the personal characteristics of this man who, in his statements, has transgressed against the moral and ethical values that should characterize any politician in the world or even any human being.

 Journalist: Mr. President, you said that you do not allow any foreign intervention in internal Syrian affairs. But Erdogan, in almost every speech he made, used to say that he told you, asked you, advised you; and that you promised him, or told him that you would do this and that. What did he say to you?  And what did you promise him?

 President Assad: First, what you are saying about these statements is evidence of what I said: that he was interfering in our internal affairs. Based on the principle that he has nothing to do with internal Syrian affairs, how could I promise him? Isn’t that evidence that he was lying? He used to ask me and provide advice; and I have my vision of things which I have announced in my speeches. He used to advise concerning reforms; and we announced a package of reforms six days after the beginning of the events in Syria in March 2011. We have implemented everything we promised, even changing the constitution completely. If you ask him now, he might talk about reform. But let me raise the question now: if he were genuine in calling for reform, why didn’t he talk about it years ago, since the beginning of our relations with him in 2004? Has he suddenly felt love, affection and concern for the Syrian people? Is it logical that he should feel more concerned for the Syrian people than I do? What would you say about  me if I told you that I am more concerned about the Turkish people than you are as a Turkish citizen? You would with no doubt say that this is hypocrisy. Let Erdogan concern himself with his internal affairs and not with others’ in order to preserve what remains of the zero-problem policy that can be implemented.

 Journalist: If you want to sum up, Mr. President, what did Erdogan want?

 President Assad: In brief, he had an agenda wider than the Syrian issue. It concerns his personal position and the position of his team. He wanted the terrorists to have a free hand in Syria, that they shouldn’t be arrested or imprisoned, and that we do not defend ourselves. Then, things will be alright for him.

 Journalist: What do you mean by the terrorists? Do you mean the Muslim Brothers?

 President Assad: Years before the crisis, Erdogan was always concerned for the Syrian Muslim Brothers. He was concerned about them more than he was concerned about Syrian-Turkish relations. There is no doubt now that they are one of his main concerns in the Syrian events, namely defending and helping them. Of course, we do not allow this, neither for Erdogan’s sake nor for the sake of anyone else in the world.

 Journalist: It seems that bridges between you and Erdogan have been destroyed.

President Assad: I think so, because he lost his credibility. Rebuilding these bridges depends on his ability to restore credibility on the Arab arena in general , not only in Syria, because this is not a personal issue. When he has the courage to stop and acknowledge his numerous mistakes at this stage, I don’t think the people of our region, and the Arab and Syrian people in particular, will have a problem in forgiving him. And I believe that the Turkish people will forgive him too.

 Journalist: Mr. President, concerning Syrian-Turkish relations, there has been a number of incidents. An aircraft was downed, Prime Minister Erdogan threatened you, deployed forces on the borders and made all the noise you’re aware of. What is, in your opinion, the way out of the Syrian-Turkish crisis?

 President Assad: The way out is that the Turkish government corrects the mistakes it made in dealing with the Syrian situation, not manipulating or exploiting any event in order to create big problems, and putting the interests of the Syrian and Turkish people before the narrow personal interests of their officials. So, the way out is there and the process is quite simple and not difficult at all. I am sure that the Turkish people, and the Syrian people, will support this, and at the forefront at these people will be the families of the two Turkish pilots. It is enough for Erdogan to listen to the statement made by the father of one of the pilots to find the way out.

 Journalist: You said that Erdogan has changed. Why, in your opinion, has he changed? And what are the things which changed in him?

 President Assad: The circumstances have changed, and these circumstances showed Erdogan’s reality. I’ll give you some evidence. For example, we heard a lot of shouting in defense of the Palestinians in 2008 when Israel attacked Gaza. But two and a half years before that, we did not hear that kind of shouting when Israel attacked Lebanon. The resistance was there in both cases, and Israel killed in both cases, and in both countries the number of martyrs was approximately 1500.

 Journalist: Why, in your opinion?

 President Assad: Because he showed his sectarian mentality. Because the difference between the two cases is only the sectarian aspect. Today, Erdogan is shedding the tears of hypocrites for the Syrian people. Why hasn’t he cried for those killed in some Gulf countries, although they are innocent, peaceful and unarmed? Why isn’t he speaking about democracy in some Gulf countries?

 Journalist: Which country?

 President Assad: Qatar, for instance. Why didn’t he do anything after the Marmara ship incident except shouting? Why did he challenge Israel, and then suddenly agreed to deploy the missile shield in Turkey? Did he deploy it in order to protect Turkey from the attack of a hostile country? Did America build these bases in order to protect itself against this region? Which country in the region has the capability to threaten America? No country. So, the answer is that he deployed it to protect Israel. These circumstances revealed Erdogan’s reality, no more, no less. Erdogan hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way the people of the region look at him. He has failed on the Arab arena. He no longer exists, neither him nor his credibility.

Journalist: You are trying to distinguish between the Turkish government and the Turkish people, but there are different opinions in Turkey about what is happening in Syria. There are those who believe that the Syrian regime is making mistakes, killing tens of innocent people and children daily. What are your comments on that, and what is the truth about the relationship between President Bashar Al-Assad and the Syrian people?

  President Assad: In order to verify the facts, let’s take real examples of what is happening in our region. One of the best examples is your direct neighbor, the Shah of Iran. He used to have a very strong state, a very strong army, very strong intelligence services, international support, and of course, unlimited regional support. Was he able to stand in the face of the people? Naturally, he was unable to do that. If I were in that position, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. You are talking about fifteen months, not two or three weeks, or even a month. All the betting and wagering has fallen. It is absolutely clear now that the largest part of the crisis is driven from the outside, and the evidence is the existence of Arab fighters and extremist and Islamist fighters fighting in Syria now. Moreover, there are the sophisticated weapons being smuggled through the borders, and the money being sent from abroad. This has actually changed the convictions of many people inside Syria, both among the opposition and the supporters of the government. The Syrians are defending their country now. The revolution cannot be a revolution of gangs. It should be a revolution of the people; and no one can suppress the revolution of the people. Now, you are in Syria, and you can go and walk about anywhere in order to see whether there is a revolution or not. We are seeking and killing terrorists and defending ourselves. They are perpetrating massacres against civilians, and it is our duty to defend civilians. It is our duty as a state. What would you do, as Turks, when you are killed? Don’t you defend yourselves? Don’t you justify all your military operations in northern Iraq and in Turkey under the title of fighting terrorism? Do we say that the Turkish state is killing its people in this case? These are double standards, and this is political hypocrisy which we do not accept.

 Journalist: Do you regret that you suppressed the first peaceful demonstrations last year?

 President Assad: There is a certain margin of error, of course, in every action. This is self evident. We are humans, and we might err or do the right thing. But we should distinguish between the mistakes made inside Syria and the foreign factors. The plot against Syria went through three stages. In the first stage, there were demonstrations, and a large part of these demonstrations was paid for. At the beginning of the crisis, a demonstrator used to be paid ten dollars. Now, they are paid fifty or a hundred dollars depending on the region. But they expected that a real revolution could come out of these demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations like those which happened in Egypt and Tunisia. Until last Ramadan, they failed in that stage. After that, they started to plan for creating certain regions in Syria dominated completely by armed gangs, like what happened in Benghazi in Libya. The army fought this attempt which lasted until last March, when they failed in the second stage. Then they shifted focus to individual assassinations, committing massacres against civilians, in addition to attacking state institutions with explosive devices. In other words, it would be naive to say that those demonstrations were peaceful. They were not exactly like that. At any rate, demonstrations still happen from time to time but in smaller numbers, and mostly they are paid for.

 Journalist: The UN Human Rights Council, in its most recent report, held the Syrian army responsible for the largest part of the bloody events taking place in Syria. How do you comment on that?

 President Assad: All of us know that the international institutions are dominated by the American administration and the west in general; and it would be stupid to consider what these international organizations say a point of reference about reality. They only express the balance of international powers; and the objective in the end is to put more pressure on Syria, and the more they fail in implementing their plans, the more pressure they put on Syria. But as long as we are doing the right thing, we will never succumb to international organizations or to anyone else.

 Journalist: As a result of the crisis in the relations between Syrian and Turkey, the Turkish government is trying, through loyal mass media, to exploit the PKK issue in order to incite the Turkish people against Syria and say that Syria is using the crisis between Syria and Turkey to support the PKK which escalated its military operations recently. It says that Syria has allowed the PKK to operate on Syrian territories close to Turkish borders.

 President Assad: This is not true. Perhaps those thinking this way are used to treachery. They think that others are as treacherous as they are. As far as we are concerned, treachery is alien to us. But when you have turbulences in your country, your priorities become different. You focus on certain issues, and consequently you become unable to control things completely and certain groups could move more freely than they used to in normal situations. If we have become unable, in certain situations, to protect some Syrians, is it reasonable to hold us responsible for protecting the Turks? Is that logical? I think, if there is a security failure in Turkey now, then it is caused by the policies of the Turkish government. But it wants to blame others for this. As I said at the beginning of this interview, when I have a certain security failure, it will reflect on you, and vice versa. Even if we wanted to help you in these circumstances, it would be very difficult to offer real assistance because of the problems we are facing.

 Journalist: What do you mean by “assistance” in this respect?

 President Assad: I mean, if we wanted to assist you on the PKK issue or on any other issue, we wouldn’t have been able to do so because we have our own problems. In order to be able to protect you or assist you, I need to protect myself first. Is it reasonable that I protect you when I am not able to protect myself completely yet.

 Journalist: But the other side is saying that they are asking for your assistance. They say that you are sending these people.

 President Assad: First, where is the evidence? Second, the PKK has been fighting Turkey for decades; consequently, they don’t need us to send them to do this. When relations between us and Turkish military and security institutions were good, the PKK used to conduct operations. The only difference is that when you have a neighboring arena with chaos in it, movement becomes easier. This is self- evident.

 Journalist: What is your perception for the Kurdish issue, from the regional perspective?

 President Assad: There is no doubt that this is a complicated region characterized by great cultural diversity. Each cultural component needs to feel that they have a real and significant existence. This is a healthy and natural thing. The problem is that during the past decades there were those who have been exploiting these components for political objectives. They placed these components in opposition with the national interest. Now, we have to think that the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of the nation is a point of strength. But it is not allowed for these components to seek separation. On the other hand, the state should not feel that such components are agents of failure or fear. They should be agents of richness. These are general principles.

 Journalist: On the medium or long term, do you see the possibility of creating a Kurdish state in the region?

 President Assad: No, this amounts to separation. I said that no one accepts separation.

 Journalist: Whether in Iraq or Syria?

 President Assad: In such a case, there would be tens of states, not only a Kurdish state. Then, every sect, religion or nationality will seek an independent state. I don’t think that our nations feel that they have an interest in this division. We have lived with each other for thousands of years in this region, and there were no problems. These problems evolved recently after colonial powers started interfering, from Lawrence of Arabia up till now. If we develop a full consciousness that we must live with each other, the borders drawn by colonial powers will diminish; and maybe in larger countries, such borders will no longer be important. Now we live in our existing states. Maybe, in the future we’ll unite in larger countries, countries which embrace all these cultures on an equal basis.

 Journalist: As a result of the crisis existing between the two countries, movement has stopped completely on the Syrian-Turkish borders; and people on both sides of the borders are suffering from economic, social and psychological crises. What is your opinion of this?

 President Assad: This is true, because these borders have turned into venues for smuggling weapons and terrorists to Syria. We talked for years about turning these borders into frontiers of development. But development and terrorism can never meet.

 Journalist: There have been numerous decisions imposing sanctions on Syria, powerful decisions which have had a real impact on the Syrian street. Until when can you stand fast in the face of these decisions which have started to make a negative and dangerous impact on Syrians?

 President Assad: As long as we have rights, as long as we have dignity and as long as we are patriots, these sanctions will never change our positions no matter how powerful they are. The question is not that of selling our principles for money, food or foreign aid. Otherwise, we should justify the position of everyone who sold his honor for money. This is absolutely unacceptable for us in Syria from the perspective of principles and moral values.

Web Site

hafez al assad speech