Assad: Erdogan thinks he's Caliph, new sultan of the Ottoman (EXCLUSIVE)
Published: 09 November, 2012, 08:32
Edited: 09 November, 2012, 13:00
In an exclusive interview with RT, President Bashar Assad said that the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but proxy terrorism by Syrians and foreign fighters. He also accused the Turkish president of eyeing Syria with imperial ambitions.
Assad told RT that the West creates scapegoats as enemies – from communism, to Islam, to Saddam Hussein. He accused Western countries of aiming to turn him into their next enemy.
While mainstream media outlets generally report on the crisis as a battle between Assad and Syrian opposition groups, the president claims that his country has been infiltrated by numerous terrorist proxy groups fighting on behalf of other powers.
In the event of a foreign invasion of Syria, Assad warned, the fallout would be too dire for the world to bear.
‘My enemy is terrorism and instability in Syria’
RT: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, thank very much for talking to us today.
H.E. Bashar Al-Assad: You are most welcome in Damascus.
RT: There are many people who were convinced a year ago that you would not make it this far. Here again you are sitting in a newly renovated presidential palace and recording this interview. Who exactly is your enemy at this point?
H.E. Bashar Al-Assad: My enemy is terrorism and instability in Syria. This is our enemy in Syria. It is not about the people, it is not about persons. The whole issue is not about me staying or leaving. It is about the country being safe or not. So, this is the enemy we have been fighting as Syria.
RT: I have been here for the last two days and I had the chance to talk to a couple of people in Damascus. Some of them say that whether you stay or go at this point does not really matter anymore. What do you say about this?
H.E. Bashar Al-Assad: I think for the president to stay or leave is a popular issue. It is related to the opinion of some people and the only way can be done through the ballot boxes. So, it is not about what we hear. It is about what we can get through that box and that box will tell any president to stay or leave very simply.
RT: I think what they meant was that at this point you are not the target anymore; Syria is the target.
H.E. Bashar Al-Assad: I was not the target; I was not the problem anyway. The West creates enemies; in the past it was the communism then it became Islam, and then it became Saddam Hussein for a different reason. Now, they want to create a new enemy represented by Bashar. That's why they say that the problem is the president so he has to leave. That is why we have to focus of the real problem, not to waste our time listening to what they say.
‘The fight now is not the president’s fight – it is Syrians’ fight to defend their country’
RT: Do you personally still believe that you are the only man who can hold Syria together and the only man who can put an end to what the world calls a ‘civil war’?
H.E. Bashar Al-Assad: We have to look at it from two aspects. The first aspect is the constitution and I have my authority under the constitution. According to this authority and the constitution, I have to be able to solve the problem. But if we mean it that you do not have any other Syrian who can be a president, no, any Syrian could be a president. We have many Syrians who are eligible to be in that position. You cannot always link the whole country only to one person.
RT: But you are fighting for your country. Do you believe that you are the man who can put an end to the conflict and restore peace?
DAMASCUS, (SANA)_ President Bashar Al-Assad gave the following interview to Addounia TV on the local and regional developments:
Dear viewers of Addounia TV… greetings,
We greet you from the People's Palace in the Syrian capital of Damascus. We are honored to meet President Bashar Al-Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Mr. President, welcome on Addounia TV.
President Al-Assad: Welcome to you and to Addounia TV.
Question: Mr. President, allow me to discuss during today's meeting the most important issues occupying the thoughts of Syrian citizens which they inquire about daily and in which they dwell upon in all issues, whether it pertains to the situation on the ground or the political situation… we start with the situation on the ground… of course, Aleppo… they talked a lot about Aleppo… what is the situation in Aleppo; how do you view it?
President Al-Assad: We cannot separate the situation in Aleppo from the situation in Syria. The difference is that Aleppo and Damascus are the two biggest cities and the two most important cities. One is the political capital and the other is the economic capital. The normal citizen's evaluation of the situation in general – including Aleppo – comes through escalation; when he sees escalation he considers the situation to be worse and when he sees calm he considers the situation to be better… matters aren't measured like this. When there are military or security operations then there could be constant escalation and suddenly the situation ends well or the opposite, a continuing calm ends with escalation. In the end, the issue is a battle of wills in the first degree. They have a will to destroy the country. They started with Daraa, moved to Homs and Damascus and Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and Lattakia; to all provinces. They try to move from one place to another. The importance is in the difference in scale or weight of the city in the Syrian context, but if we take into account the scale of the complex battles waged by the armed forces on the technical, tactical and strategic levels, then they are among the most complex types of battles, yet the armed forces achieve great successes in this regard. Everyone hopes that the achievement or the resolution to be within weeks or days and hours. This is illogical; we're involved in a regional and global battle, so time is needed to resolve it. But I can summarize all this explanation in a sentence: we are moving forward and the situation is practically better but resolution hasn't been achieved and this takes time.
Question: Mr. President, regarding areas or provinces to which problems moved, starting from Daraa to Damascus Countryside, Homs, Lattakia, Aleppo and Idleb. Of course, there are those who broached the issue of neighboring countries. In this case, many ask what is the position of the Syrian state towards neighboring countries, particularly since some countries facilitate, train, finance and arm in all manners which may constitute a violation of the Syrian state, the security of Syria and the safety of Syrian citizens?
President Al-Assad: Some neighboring countries stand by Syria but maybe they're not exactly able to control the smuggling of logistic supplies to terrorists. Some countries overlook or keep their distance, and some countries participate in this matter, but we have to distinguish between what we as Syria and as Syrian people and as a country want from these countries. Do we seek a relation or a dispute with the country or with the people? As for Turkey for example; the position of the Turkish state is known, and it assumes direct responsibility for the blood that bled and was shed in Syria. But when we began developing our relation with Turkey, we didn't look for a relation with individuals or a transient government; rather we looked to a history of tense and turbulent relation for nearly nine decades approximately. We wanted to erase it, then do we go backwards because of the ignorance of some Turkish officials, or do we look at the relation with the Turkish people, particularly since this people practically stood with us during this crisis and didn't drift despite the media and financial pressure to go in the other direction. We must think first of peoples, because governments are transient and we must preserve relations with the peoples because these people are the ones who will practically protect us, as logistic supply will remain weak if the people don’t embrace the issue.
Jürgen Todenhöfer: Mr. President, members of the opposition and western politicians say, that you are the main obstacle for peace in Syria. Would you be ready to step down as president if this could bring peace to your country and stop the bloodshed?
Bashar Al-Assad: The president shouldn’t run away from challenge and we have a national challenge now in Syria. The president shouldn’t escape the situation, but from the other side you can stay as president, stay in this position only when you have the public support. So, answering this question should be answered by the Syrian people, by the election not by the president. I can nominate myself, I can run for the election or not run, but to leave or not to leave, this is about the Syrian people.
Todenhöfer: You think, you still have a majority behind you in your country?
Assad: If I have – if I don’t have a support in the public, how could I stay in this position? United States is against me, the West is against me, many regional powers and countries and the people against me, so, how could I stay in this position? The answer is, I still have a public support. How much, what the percentage is – this is not the question, I don’t have numbers now. Of course, in this position, in this situation you must have public support.
Todenhöfer: I’ve been to some of the demonstrations, even in Homs, in peaceful demonstrations. Isn’t it legitimate that people demand for more freedom, more democracy and less power in the hands of one family, less power in the hands of secret services?
Assad: Let’s correct the question first to have the correct answer. We don’t have power in the hand of a family. In Syria we have the state, we have institutions, maybe not the ideal institutions, but we don’t have a family to run the country. We have a state. This is first fault.
Now we can answer the first part. Of course they have the right, they have the legitimate right whether they are demonstrators or not. Not only demonstrators ask for freedom. Actually the majority of the people ask for reforms, political reforms, not freedom. We have freedom but not the ideal freedom. But the reform, let’s say, to have more participation in the power, in the government, in everything else in their country. This is legitimate. But the majority is not in the demonstrations. We have people who have demonstrated and who have not, but this is legitimate.
Todenhöfer: A question that everybody is asking in the western countries and in your country: Who has killed the thousands of civilians who died in this conflict? The opposition blames you.
Assad: If you want to know who killed, you first have to know who has been killed. You cannot tell about the criminals without knowing about the victims. Those victims, you are talking about, the majority of them, are government supporters. So, how can you be the criminal and the victim at the same time? The majority are people who support the government and large part of the others are innocent people who have been killed by different groups in Syria.
Todenhöfer: Would you admit that some of these or a certain percentage of these innocents …….. a certain percentage?
Assad: No, we don’t have. We have an investigation committee about all the crime that happened in Syria. From the list that we have, from the names that we have, the highest percentage, are people who are killed by gangs, different kinds of gangs. With the Al Kaida, with the extremists or outlaws, people who escaped the police for years.
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.
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – President Bashar Al-Assad stressed that the national and ethical conditions which are interrelated for the majority of Syrian people are the primary element that confronted the pressures which Syria is exposed to at the hands of the world's most powerful states along with many regional states, adding "the national and ethical conditions withstood many tempting offers of money and other things."
In an interview with the Iran's Channel 4, President Al-Assad said the Syrian people play the primary role in preserving Syria as a state, since the role of the state institutions and army can't be separated from the people, and that otherwise the state could not have stood in the face of the popular stance, noting that this was expressed through the spontaneous demonstrations in the street.
President Al-Assad emphasized that the solid internal situation is the real barrier which prevents the success of any foreign interference, whether this interference is through pumping money or sending weapons, stressing that the internal and external situations are inseparable and that one cannot assign percentages to their role in the crisis.
The President voiced support to the six-point plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan, saying that the plan is good and is still viable now and in the future, affirming that Syria approved it out of conviction, particularly the article related to the ending of violence which means the cessation of the criminal acts of the terrorist groups and the cessation of providing them with money and weapons by the countries who sponsor them.
President Al-Assad said that western and regional countries who claim to back this plan are making false claims because they consider the failure of the Annan's plan in their favor as a way of accusing Syria of causing its failure and justify their going to the UN Security Council to adopt resolutions against it.
He added that some countries are not content with the Security Council; rather they want a military strike similar to what happened in Libya, but it seems that their attempts, until the moment, have failed.
"We don't have any information of specific plans, but there are bids by the a few countries to push the issue towards military action. However, a little sense they have prevents them from going to a military action because the region – with its geopolitical importance and social structure – is a seismic fault line, and in a case of any manipulation of this fault line, the earthquake will move far in different directions. So, this issue is much greater than the calculations of some," President Al-Assad said.
He noted that proper analysts for what is going on in the region shows that there is a conflict between two projects: the resistance project which rejects hegemony, and the Greater Middle East project, adding that this conflict is not new but as old as colonialism; it was just given a new name.
President Al-Assad pointed out that the New Middle East which people of the region want is a Middle East which is resistant to all projects that come from abroad, all dictations, all occupation and hegemony, as it is a project that stems from the people in the region and their interests.
He went on to say that he believes that this conflict will continue, saying "however, we as states and peoples in this region will not allow any other project to pass if it does not express our interests."