President Assad has given a lengthy interview to the Spanish news agency EFE where he touched upon various topics. Here are the highlights of his conversation.
He refuted any information on the possible opening of Russia’s second military base in Syria.
“No, that’s not true, and two days ago, they denied this allegation. If there is, they would have announced it, and we would have announced it at the same time, so no,” he said.
No Conditions From President Putin in Return for Military Involvement
The Syrian leader also said that President Putin did not set any conditions to Damascus in return for launching airstrikes on the Daesh (ISIL/ISIS).
"He didn’t ask for anything in return for a simple reason; because it’s not a trade. Actually, the normal relation between two countries is a relation about mutual interest…So, let’s say in return, Russia [will] have the stability of Syria, of Iraq, of our region – we’re not far from Russia."
On His Resignation
“First of all, the question is: what is the relation between the president staying in power or resigning with the conflict?” the president wondered.
“This kind of personalizing the problem just to be used as a cover to say that “there’s no problem with the terrorism, no country interfering from the outside, sending money and armaments to the Syrian rebels in order to make chaos and anarchy.”
“Actually, this is a president who wants to stay in power and people who are fighting for freedom, and he’s oppressing them and killing them, and that’s why they are revolting.”
“This is a very romantic picture for, let’s say, teenagers, like a love story for teenagers. Reality is not like this. The question is if it’s part of the solution in Syria. Political solution, that means when I say political solution doesn’t mean Western or external; it should be a Syrian solution.”
“When the Syrian people do not want you to be a president, you have to leave the same day, not the other day. The same day. This is a principle for me. If I think that I can help my country, especially in a crisis, and the Syrian people still support me – I don’t say the Syrian people; the majority of the Syrian people to be more precise – of course I have to stay. That’s self-evident.”
Syria prepared to negotiate, but not with terrorist organizations
The president also said that he and his government are ready to start the negotiations with the opposition. But it depends on the definition of opposition.
“Opposition, for everyone in this world, doesn’t mean militant. There’s a big difference between militants, terrorists, and opposition,” he clarified.
“Opposition is a political term, not a military term. So, talking about the concept is different from the practice, because so far, we’ve been seeing that some countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United States, and some Western countries wanted the terrorist groups to join these negotiations. They want the Syrian government to negotiate with the terrorists, something I don’t think anyone would accept in any country.”
“Let me be realistic; regarding the militants in Syria, we already had some dialogue with some groups, not organizations, for one reason, and the reason was to reach a situation where they give up their armaments and either join the government or go back to their normal life, having amnesty from the government. This is the only way to deal with the militants in Syria.”
The president stressed that the opposition in Spain, for example, is a Spanish opposition, related to the Spanish grassroots, Spanish citizens. While it is not the case in Syria.
“If you want to reach something, to have successful and fruitful dialogue, you need to deal with the real, patriotic, national opposition that has grassroots in Syria and is only related to the Syrian people, not to any other state or regime in the world,” he said.
“For us, in Syria, everyone who holds a machinegun is a terrorist, so without defining this term, reaching a definition, there’s no point of just meeting in New York, or anywhere else,” he said.
On Leaving Syria
“I never thought about leaving Syria under any circumstances, in any situation, something I never put in my mind, like the Americans say “plan B” or “plan C.” Actually, no.”
“But again, the same answer: that depends on the Syrian population; would they support you or not? If you have the support, it means you’re not the problem, because if you are the problem as a person, the Syrian people will be against you.”
“What’s the point of the people, of the majority, supporting you, while you are the reason of the conflict? This is the first aspect."
"The second aspect, if I have a problem with the Syrians, with the majority of the Syrians, and you have the national and regional countries being against me, and the West, most of the West, the United States, their allies, the strongest countries and the richest countries in the world against me, and I’m against the Syrian people, how can I be president? It’s not logical. I’m being here after five years – nearly five years – of the war, because I have the support of the majority of the Syrians,” President Assad finally stated.