Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:19PM
The Syrian foreign minister says his country would, under no circumstances, brook violation of its territorial integrity, emphasizing that Syria is facing a US-led international conspiracy.
Interviewed by the bureau chief of Iran’s Press TV and Al-Alam television networks in Syria, Hosein Mortada, the Syrian top diplomat Walid al-Muallem spoke of his country’s strategic relations with Iran and noted that the Islamic Republic and Hezbollah had assisted his country in the face of Takfiri terrorism. He also accused some regional countries and the United States of adopting a dual policy vis-à-vis terrorism and said the supporters of Takfiri terrorism were now paying the price of conspiracies.
What follows is the transcript of the interview with the Syrian foreign minister.
Press TV: How do you assess the current developments? What new things have the Moscow talks offered?
Muallem: First, I would like to felicitate the Leader of Iran, Imam Ali Khamenei, on the occasion of the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution; a development that revolutionized the situation in the region and turned Iran into an influential regional country.
We are facing an international conspiracy, led by the United States, which is entering the fifth year and is being sustained by the European Union and regional countries, like Turkey, and Arab countries, like some of the members of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council. The conspiracy has targeted Syria’s position of resistance against aggressive Zionist plans and the United States’ hegemony, whose priority in the region is to serve the Zionists’ security interests. The Zionist regime is above all regional developments. Zionist war minister Moshe Ya’alon speaks of the regime’s cooperation with the [al-Qaeda-affiliated] al-Nusra Front and does not consider Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group), Tel Aviv’s enemy. And this regime practically provides logistical and military support to al-Nusra.
Press TV: How does Syria view Israel’s provision of assistance, especially in the suburbs of Quneitra, to the country’s enemies? Does it not consider Tel Aviv to be its open enemy?
Muallem: As I said, one of the goals of this conspiracy is to deliver blow to Syria due to its position vis-à-vis the Zionist regime. What Israel is trying to enact in Syria, it did in southern Lebanon and was defeated due to Lebanese Islamic resistance. I consider this policy to be futile since the recurrent creation of security cordon in the Golan front has been met with defeat. We have witnessed an instance of national resistance on the part of the people of Golan, which has opposed such plans.
Press TV: Does the national resistance front against Israel and terrorists practically exist in Golan? Has it started its operations or will it do so in the future?
Muallem: Yes, it does exist. And if it has not started staging resistance so far, it will [eventually] do so. The Syrian army, on the one side, and the national resistance, on the other, attempt to stage resistance in the face of al-Nusra Front and Israel.
Press TV: Given what is said about the Syrian government’s not having taken any steps toward creation of a solution to end the country’s crisis, what is your take on the United Nations’ plans and its envoys?
Muallem: First, I should note that the Geneva I and II talks were not negotiation between Syrian groups, but one between the representatives of the Syrian government and those of 35 countries backing the so-called Syrian opposition coalition. This means that the oppositionists could not either accept or reject anything without consulting those countries. Is it sensible to believe that a Syrian be given a plan for the preservation of the country’s unity, sovereignty, and independence and reject it? Opposition representatives turned down the plan at the behest of Robert Ford.
They had speculated that the government representatives would go to Geneva to transfer power to them, but had their hopes dashed. At the Montreux conference, 50 countries gathered, but the product was against their expectation. By going to Geneva, we meant to meet with the countries backing the so-called opposition coalition.
Press TV: Has the Geneva conference come to an end?
Muallem: At first, I should note that there is difference between the Geneva conference and Geneva Communiqué. The communiqué was drawn up in 2012 when none of the Syrians were present. The document, however, contains provisions, which should be reviewed, especially in the aftermath of the emergence of the Daesh and al-Nusra terrorist groups and the subsided battleground presence of the so-called Free Syrian army. In addition, all the document’s provisions point to agreement, meaning the decision to implement every provision should be taken in coordination with all the concerned parties. Hence, the communiqué is in need of revision in the light of the priorities of the fight against terrorism. Regarding the international envoys, I should note that none managed to persuade the countries conspiring against Syria, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey, to stop sending terrorists and providing financial assistance and training for terrorist groups. Instead, more terrorists come to Syria from the north and south every day. Furthermore, the Resolution 2178 on fighting terrorism, which the UN Security Council adopted, did not manage to bind countries to implementing it and eradicating the sources of terrorism either. Instead, the US flouted the resolution under the pretext of training and arming the so-called moderate opposition and this is why more terrorists will come to Syria. Therefore, if the international envoy lacks the support of the Security Council and its permanent members, his/her mission will only remain abstract.
Press TV: What is the Syrian government’s view on the US seriousness in fighting ISIL terrorists and supporting the moderate opposition? How much does it trust these claims?
Muallem: When Israel says it faces no threat from Daesh, this is a message for the US. The question surfacing here is how the Daesh terrorist group was established and developed? Did they parachute into Syria or entered the country as the US was in the know?
The US had speculated that, at the beginning of the creation of the al-Nusra Front and Daesh, which both emanate from al-Qeada, it can overthrow the Syrian establishment. Accordingly, it stayed silent. But when the two groups exited the ambit of the US influence and damaged its interests in Erbil, rushed to confronting them and called them terrorist groups, exactly like the Bin Laden experience in Afghanistan.
Given the new technologies, is it logical to accept that the US aircraft mistakenly airdrop arms, ammunition, food, and drug consignments for the Daesh terrorists and that this mistake keeps recurring? Hence, I declare here that the Daesh would not be eradicated through airstrikes, but through ground warfare and aerial support, the exact thing that the Iraqi and Syrian armies are doing. The difference is that Iraq is just fighting Daesh, but the Syrian army is simultaneously fighting Daesh, al-Nusra Front, and more than 70 other terrorist groups.
Press TV: You speak of ground warfare. Should other countries produce plans for ground warfare, would they be met with the Syrian government’s approval?
Muallem: Definitely not. There are two reasons for this disapproval. First, we ourselves have army and popular forces that can carry out this mission. Therefore, we do not need anyone. And the only thing that we ask of the international community is to remove the sources feeding the terrorists, in other words Jordan and Turkey should exercise sufficient control over their borders. Should this happen, you will witness that the Syrian army will be able to defeat the Daesh terrorist group and the al-Nusra Front. Jordan and Israel provide assistance for al-Nusra and other terrorists from the south and even treat those wounded from Daesh and other terrorist groups. There should be an international obligation to destroy the sources of terrorism. But the second reason for our disapproval is our concern for the national sovereignty and we disapprove of the violation of Syria’s sovereignty for any reason.
Press TV: The Syrian government had questions regarding the proposal by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo. Has it received any answers under the aegis of the meetings that have taken place?
Muallem: We are still discussing the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo with de Mistura’s deputy and will continue consultations with [the envoy] himself on the eve of his trip to Syria. The problem facing him regarding the cessation of conflicts in Aleppo is the question of the existence of several armed groups with different inclinations in the city and we hope that bloodshed will stop in the city. But terrorists, especially the foreigners, should surrender their arms, leave the city, return to their countries, and negotiations should take place with the countries supporting them so those countries also commit to the Chapter 7 resolution of the UN Security Council on Syria, so we can stop defense. On the other hand, Syrians can join us in governing the country.
Unfortunately, these countries are not serious in this matter and, despite announcing in the media that they support de Mistura’s proposal, they are actually attempting to defeat it.
Press TV: Do you believe that the international community is serious about creating a political resolution in Syria?
Muallem: I cannot confirm this since there is much difference between alleging something and reality. For instance, Turkey says it is trying to prevent the entry of terrorists and then says it is not its problem, but that of the countries, from which terrorists descend into Syria, and that Ankara should be informed so the terrorists’ entry can be stopped. Under these circumstances, between 700 to 1,000 terrorists enter the Syrian soil every month and in the south, although Jordanians claim they do not allow the terrorists to cross over, they enter Syria with their arms and vehicles and only get killed by Jordanian forces on their way back. How can this be understood that terrorists can cross the border, but are stopped on their way out? Therefore, the countries backing the terrorists are not serious in fighting terrorism. And the responsibility for all this falls on the Americans, since these countries do not decide independently and align themselves to the US and the US biases eventually serve the Zionist regime’s interests.
Press TV: How do Turkey and its president benefit from the conflict in Syria and why did the bilateral relations sour?
Muallem: At the beginning of the Arab Spring, Turkey thought that, through supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, it can realize the dream of the creation of the Ottoman Empire, especially given the fact that the Brotherhood was based in Istanbul. During Turkey and Syria’s contacts in 2011 and Ahmet Davutoglu’s visits to Syria, Ankara was seeking the Brotherhood’s rise to power. I repeatedly asserted that, due to its beliefs, Turkey would never join the international coalition against Daesh. Turkey constitutes Daesh’s strategic depth and has currently turned into a market for selling the properties stolen by Daesh from Syria and Iraq and terrorists sell the two countries’ oil and wheat in Turkey. Turkey is also a place for terrorists to take refuge and get treated and the story of Turkish hostages was staged by the country so it can avoid joining the coalition. Afterward, Erdogan stipulated his three famous conditions (creation of buffer zones, no-fly zones, and the ouster of the Syrian government), none of which were practical. In doing so, he [both] showed the height of his ambition and exempted his country from joining the coalition. Therefore, Erdogan would not join the international coalition due to his beliefs, although Turkey is a NATO member and a US ally.
The Hezbollah fighters’ participation for fighting terrorism in Syria was one of the wisest decisions, the [Lebanese resistance] movement took in a preemptive measure to fight the aftershocks of terrorism. And had other Arabs understood Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah’s approaches and applied them, they could have saved their countries from the threat.
Press TV: What is Jordan’s attitude in fighting terrorism? Are the country’s relations with Syria like [those of] others [with the country] or are there exceptions?
Muallem: Jordan is our brother country and we differentiate between our relations with the Jordanian people and the country’s rulers. Unfortunately, due to its economic situation, Jordan backed the plan by the Persian Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia, which sought to damage Syria. Amman hit two birds with one stone by so doing: It both received financial and economic support and satisfied the US and the Zionist regime.
I believe that there are already enough dormant terrorist nuclei in all Arab countries. Hence, it is in the interest of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries to cooperate in fighting terrorism. Since none is immune from this threat and it is a source of wonder that a country like Jordan, which fights terrorists on its borders, simultaneously supports terrorism!
We do not maintain relations with Jordan at the time being, but, while condoling with the family of martyr al-Kassasbeh, the pilot, who was burned at the hands of Daesh, and the dear Jordanian people, I must say that we asked the Jordanian government to cooperate with us in fighting terrorism, but they said they would assist the moderate opposition should they continue their fight.
Press TV: Given the fact that Syria offered its condolences over the Jordanian pilot’s death, but did not do so in the case of the late Saudi King Abdullah, are Syria’s relations with Saudi Arabia completely severed?
Muallem: At the request of Saudi Arabia, our relations with the country are suspended at the diplomatic level, and Riyadh’s support for the terrorists is no longer a secret to anyone. Jaysh al-Islam and Zahran Alloush are completely confident of Saudi support and everybody knows about their relations with the Saudi intelligence service. The formation of Daesh began with a Wahhabi mentality, and I say once more that it is in the interest of Saudi Arabia and its people that the country reviews its policies in order to preserve its security. Syria exited the hardest part of crisis through the resistance and steadfastness of its people and army and now looks to the future with optimism. But before it’s too late, I invite other countries to review their policies so they are not afflicted by terrorism.
At the request of Saudi Arabia, our relations with the country are suspended at the diplomatic level, and Riyadh’s support for the terrorists is no longer a secret to anyone.
Press TV: Do you predict any changes in the Saudi policy given the developments in the country and the accession to power of the new king?
Muallem: This is an important question, answering which requires time. Today, following the France incidents and threat against the European countries’ capitals, the Europeans fear they might be afflicted by terrorism. Not only are they not ashamed of speaking in this regard, but also have passed laws for controlling their borders and passengers. There should be a move toward revision (of the support for terrorists) in the international community. Saudi Arabia too has to change its policies regarding Daesh, especially after the incidents that took place on its borders and the terrorist group reached its border and killed some Saudi forces on the common border between the country and Iraq.
But regarding the revival of ties with Saudi Arabia, I should say, should Riyadh give up providing financial and military support for terrorists and we witness the Saudis’ inclination (toward rapprochement), we would examine reestablishment of ties with the country. Regarding revival of ties with Qatar, I should also say we are at war and we will analyze whatever relieves us of this situation.
There should be a move toward revision (of the support for terrorists) in the international community. Saudi Arabia too has to change its policies regarding Daesh, especially after the incidents that took place on its borders and the terrorist group reached its border and killed some Saudi forces on the common border between the country and Iraq.
Press TV: What is your opinion about revival of ties with Egypt given the rise to power of al-Sisi and the prospect of creation of diplomatic channels between the two countries?
Muallem: Actually, there are two options before Egypt. It should either sustain the current situation or return to its role as a leader in the Arab world, especially given the fact that Egyptian forces get killed in Sinai and those who target Egypt’s security are [members of] the same group, which damages the Syrian security and army. The Egyptian government should itself choose, since the two countries were on one side in the past.
Press TV: Syrian and Lebanese peoples maintain good relations, but the same apparently cannot be said about the two countries’ establishments. Whose fault is this?
Muallem: We said at the very beginning that we support whatever plan that prevents shedding of Syrian blood and we eventually approve of relations with Lebanon. We know well that some groups are conspiring in Lebanon, some against Hezbollah, which is a resistance movement and became a source of pride for the Arab and Islamic world, or want to disarm it or believe that Hezbollah’s confrontation against Israel is a sort of change in balance in the region. There are some conspiring in Lebanon against the country’s devoted descendants, not to mention against Syria! It is thus that we decided in Syria to welcome anyone who reaches out to us and turn our backs to anyone, who refuses us his helping hand.
We say that the groups, which decided to implement measures for the Syrians’ entry into the Lebanese soil that go against the developments that followed the country’s independence, are short-lived and patient and struggling peoples always conquer.
Press TV: Given the crisis in Lebanon and the country’s not having a president, have you exercised pressure on your allies for the election of a head of state and resolution of the crisis?
Muallem: We removed the term “imposing pressure” in our ties with Lebanon, since we do not do that to our allies and friends, with whom we rather consult and the decision eventually lies with them. This is how we interact with Lebanon and the election of a president or failure to do so is Lebanon’s internal problem. I believe that the Lebanese’ unity will lead to the election of a president.
Press TV: About regional countries, especially Russia and Iran […,] is it true that Iran has sent some forces to Syria?
Muallem: These claims are unfounded and ones which have failed. Our relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, ever since the establishment of the Islamic Revolution, have been strategic ones. And, during Iraq’s war against Iran, we used to tell Arabs, “How do you rise against a country like Iran, which has chosen Palestine over Israel, while [Iran’s] former monarch was allied with the Zionist regime, and how do you fight against a country, which constitutes the strategic depth of the issue of Palestine?” But, unfortunately, many Arabs have not taken an independent decision regarding Iran even until now. In Syria, we have maintained the deepest strategic relations with Iran since the time of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad until now. We stood by the side of our Iranian brothers in the war with Iraq. They did not forget this favor and stand by our side in the war against terrorism. There are no defense agreements between Iran and Syria. Instead there is a sort of military cooperation, but there are no Iranian forces on the Syrian soil. There is rather a sort of deep economic relations and political consultations, coordination, and cooperation between the countries’ leaders. The countries are in profound consultation and, after the Moscow consultation session, we sent Faisal Mekdad, deputy foreign minister, to Tehran to announce the results of the session to our brothers in Tehran. We are always in continuous and constant relationship with Tehran.
Regarding our ties with Russia, I should say that our relations with the country are likewise strategic and historical ones, which go back to the Soviet era, and still continue on the military, economic, and political arenas and we are satisfied with these relations.
Press TV: Given what you said, have other groups developed faith in inter-Syrian dialogue without foreign intervention and is there any likelihood that such dialogue takes place in Damascus as it did in Moscow?
Muallem: This is what the Syrian government is pursuing, but this issue requires negotiation with domestic and foreign opposition and the Moscow meeting sought the same thing. And since we did not arrive at a comprehensive conclusion, we require another session in Moscow and if this mentality does not mature, we would be requiring a third session.