Part 1- President al-Assad’s Portuguese State TV interview
President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Portuguese State Television, RTP, following is the first part of the full text:
Question 1: In a few days, it will be 4 years since the protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. From then on it has been a massacre. More than 220 thousand people have died, and there are 4 million displaced people. The arrival of Daesh (Islamic State) has made the situation more grim. For this reasons, it’s important to speak to a key figure in all this process. Today, he gives his first interview ever to a Portuguese media outlet. The Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad.
How do you describe your country today, Mr. President?
President Assad: Let me start by commenting on the number that you mentioned in your introduction, about the number of victims in Syria, which is 200,000, that’s been mentioned in the Western media recently, 220,000. That number is exaggerated. Always the West has exaggerated the numbers in Syria. Actually, it is not about whether they are hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands. Victims are victims, killing is killing, and terrorism is terrorism. Actually, it’s not about being a mere number represented on a graph, on a chart, like a spreadsheet. It’s about families that lost members, lost dear ones, lost relatives. It’s a human disaster we have in Syria.
This crisis has affected every part of Syria, every Syrian citizen regardless of his affiliation or allegiance. It affected his livelihood, food, medicaments, medical care, basic requirements like education. Hundreds of hospitals were destroyed, thousands of schools were destroyed, tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of students don’t go to school. All that will create the fertile habitat and good incubator for terrorism and extremism to grow. But despite all this hardship, the Syrians are determined to continue fighting terrorism, defending their country, and defying hegemony.
Question 2: Syria is not much of a country nowadays. The Syrian Army does not control all the borders, you have international coalition flying in your skies. On the grounds there are different entities. Is Syria as we have known it lost or finished?
President Assad: You cannot talk about a finished Syria when the people are unified behind their government and their army and fighting terrorism and still have institutions working. We still have subsidies, we still pay salaries, we pay the salaries even in some areas under the control of the terrorists themselves. We still have the-
Question 3: You send money to…?
President Assad: Exactly, we send salaries. Because they are employees, and have their own salaries. We send vaccines to those areas for the children.
Question 4: So you cooperate with the Islamic State?
President Assad: No, no. We don’t. We send them, and we deal with the civilians who are the mediators with the terrorists, or the militants. But at the end, all these basic requirements reach those areas. So, we don’t have “Syria is finished” and we don’t have a failed state, actually. But if you want to talk about something different you mentioned in your question, which is the breaching of our airspace illegally by the alliance airplanes and by terrorists supported or working as proxy to regional countries-
Question 5: And borders.
President Assad: This is a failure of the international system, this international system that’s been represented by the United Nations and the Security Council, and that is supposed to solve the problems and protect the sovereignty of different countries and prevent war. Actually, it has failed in doing so. So, what we have now is a failed United Nations; failed to protect international citizens including in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and in other countries.
Question 6: But you also failed. The Syrian Army also fails, because a lot of Christians have been abducted recently in the north.
President Assad: Actually, the role of the Syrian Army, like any national army, is to protect every single citizen, regardless of his affiliation, religion, sect, ethnicities, and so on. If you have mentioned this, I would say yes, we would like to and we wish that the Syrian Army would be able to help every Syrian since the beginning of the crisis. But the main obstacle why the Syrian army couldn’t do so, and as part of this couldn’t help the Christians a few days ago that have been kidnapped by ISIS, is the unlimited support that’s been offered to those terrorists by the Western and regional countries.
Question 7: What we have seen until now is several attempts to have a peace conference that all have failed. What we have until now, it’s talks about talks. What can break this deadlock, Mr. President?
President Assad: Do you mean in Geneva?
Question 8: Geneva 1, Geneva 2, the Russian initiative was a fiasco.
President Assad: The solution is political, but if you want to sit with someone or a party that doesn’t influence the situation on the ground, it’s going to be talk for the sake of talk, that’s correct. We didn’t choose the other party in Geneva. It was chosen by the West, by Turkey, by Saudi Arabia, by Qatar. It wasn’t a Syrian opposition that we made dialogue with. You’re right; if you want to make dialogue, you have to make it with Syrian opposition, Syrian partner, Syrian people who represents Syrians in Syria, not who represent other countries. So, what happened in Geneva wasn’t the model that we have to follow.
Question 9: But, what you are saying, is that an acceptable opposition for you, or…?
President Assad: Of course, any opposition that works for the Syrian, to defend its country, represents Syrians or part of the Syrian population…
Question 10: Within the framework of the Syrian state?
President Assad: No, no. Any opposition who works for the Syrian people. It’s not related to the state, it’s not related to the government.
Question 11: So, you’re excluding the Syrian National Coalition?
President Assad: I don’t exclude anyone as long as he’s Syrian. I’m talking about criteria. Anyone, or any party, who meet with these criteria, we can consider him as opposition. If the coalition is formed in the West or any other country, it’s not considered Syrian. It doesn’t represent the Syrian people. The Syrian people won’t accept him.
Question 12: But are you able to discuss with them or not?
President Assad: Actually, what we have followed since the beginning of the crisis, we didn’t leave any stone unturned. We tried every possible solution in order not to allow anyone to say “if they didn’t do this, that would have happened.” So, we discussed even with the coalition, although we know in advance that it doesn’t represent Syrians, it represents the countries that formed it. And second, it doesn’t have any influence on the ground in Syria, even with the militants, even with the terrorists, even with anyone who is involved in the problem within Syria.
Question 13: So you’re saying that the “Free Syrian Army” doesn’t have influence on the ground? That only al-Nusra and Islamic State have influence on the ground?
President Assad: Even Obama said that, he said that the moderate opposition is a fantasy. Most of the world now knows, what they called moderate opposition, they called it “Free Syrian Army,” they have so many other names, all of them are fantasy. Actually, who is controlling the terrorism arena in Syria are either ISIS or al-Nusra, mainly, and some other smaller factions.
Question 14: So, in the end, the solution for Syria is a military solution, and not a negotiated peace?
President Assad: No, actually, what we have been doing recently, as long as we don’t have a party to make negotiations with who can influence the militants on the ground, we went to make reconciliation with the militants in some areas, and that worked, and this is a very realistic political solution. Actually, that is how you exclude the military solution, by discussing with them making a safe area.
Question 15: About the discussions, you have Geneva 1, Geneva 2, the Russian initiative, in all of that there are not, how shall I say, things in common. Is there anything, any issue that you know it is possible, why not start with them? Is there anything in common between you and them?
President Assad: If you want to talk about what happened in Moscow, it’s different from what happened in Geneva, because they invited some of the opposition, because we can’t talk about one opposition; we have many different oppositions. You don’t put them in one basket. You have some of them represent Syrians, some of them they don’t represent anyone, and so on. So, we have common things with some of the opposition that were invited to Moscow, so this is just the beginning of the dialogue. The dialogue may take a long time. But at the end, if you want to not talk about dialogue, talk about the end results on the ground, the question is, who of those parties that we call opposition, who of them represent Syrian people and can influence the militants on the ground in order to save Syrian blood? That is the question. We don’t have an answer yet, because they have to prove, we don’t have to prove. We know we have our army, the army will obey the government, if the government gives an order, it will follow the order. But what about the others? Who is going to control the terrorists? That is the question.
Question 16: You pointed out that some countries, like France, don’t want a peace conference to succeed. Why is that?
President Assad: Actually, you have two points, or two reasons, let’s say. First one is not related only to the French; it’s related to every official who is complicit and involved in the propaganda and the aggression against Syria during the last four years. It’s about the end of this war will unmask those officials in front of their public opinion, in a country where there is public opinion. I don’t mean Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where there is no public opinion anyway. But generally, they will be unmasked about the question “what is the revolution that you mentioned, that you talked about? How could a revolution collapse or fail if you have the support of the West, the support of regional countries, all this money and armaments and so on, and you supposed that he’s a dictator who is killing his good people, so the people are against him, regional countries are against him, and the West is against him, and he succeeded.It’s one of two options: you’re either lying to us, or you’re talking about a superman. Because you don’t a superman, he’s a regular president, it means he could withstand for four years only because he has the public support. It doesn’t mean full public support, one hundred percent, or absolute public support, but definitely have support from a part, a large amount of the Syrian people.” So, this is a lie that the public opinion in the West and in other countries will ask the officials about. What about the Arab spring that turned out to be – instead of budding flowers – blood and killing and destruction? Is that the spring that you talked about? This is one reason.
The other reason is more specific towards France. Not limited, but more specific, let’s say. It’s about the financial relation between France and the Gulf states. Maybe because they have financial difficulties, I don’t know why. But this financial relations, and I don’t have any proof whether this is about the vested interest of some officials in France or if it’s about public interest, I don’t have any proof, but at the end, these financial interests push those officials in France to exchange their values of liberty and fraternity and democracy, all the things that they used to preach, the exchange those values for petrodollars. So now those French officials and some others in the West, they don’t practice what they preach anymore.