Full text of the exclusive interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by EFE in Damascus:
Question: Thank you, Mr. President for your hospitality and for giving to the news agency Efe this opportunity to understand what the situation in his country. On November 14, the world powers, including Russia and Iran in Vienna agreed a timetable to reach a political solution to the crisis in Syria. According to that timetable, the negotiations between his government and the so-called moderate opposition should start on 1 January. Are you ready to start these negotiations?
Answer: You are welcome to Syria Sean. Since the conflict began in Syria we have taken the approach of dialogue with all parties involved in the Syrian conflict and we have tried and responded positively to every initiative that has been presented in different countries around the world, regardless of their actual intention and credibility of persons or officers who have initiated these proposals. So we are now ready to begin negotiations with the opposition. But it depends on the definition of opposition. Opposition, for everyone does not mean armed groups. There is a difference between armed groups and terrorists on the one hand, and opposition on the other. Opposition is a political term, not a military term. So talk about the concept is different in practice, because so far we have seen that other countries, including Saudi Arabia, USA and other Western nations have wanted terrorist groups to join the negotiations. They want the government of Syria to negotiate with terrorists, something not think anyone could accept in any country.
Question: Would you be willing to negotiate and dialogue with opposition groups currently meeting in Riyadh?
Answer: It is the same because there is a mix of political and armed opposition groups. Let me be realistic about armed groups in Syria. We have spoken with some groups, not organizations, for a reason that was to achieve a situation in which they give up their weapons and join the government or decided to return to his normal life with government amnesty. This is the only way to deal with the armed groups in Syria. When you want to change your approach, give up their weapons, we will be ready, but treat them as if they were a political entity is something we reject outright. This first. As for what they call political opposition: you, like Spanish, when looking at the opposition in your country, go evident that the opposition is a Spanish opposition and have bases and Spanish are Spanish citizens. It can not be opposition while attached to a foreign country, no matter what. So, again, it depends on the type of groups meeting in Saudi Arabia. People forming the opposition in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, in France, in the UK, in the US So, in principle, we are ready, but in the end if you want to achieve something, to have a successful and fruitful dialogue, it is necessary to deal with a real, national and patriotic opposition that has its roots in Syria and only relates to the Syrians and not with any other state or government in the world.
Question: The Syrian delegation will attend the conference in New York in the event that actually take place in the coming weeks?
Answer: It is not yet confirmed. The recent Russian statement said they preferred it to be, I think, in Vienna. This first. Second, they said that it is not appropriate before defining what the terrorist groups and which are not, which is very realistic and logical. For us in Syria, all carrying weapons is a terrorist, so without defining that term, without reaching a definition makes no sense to meet in New York or anywhere else.
Question: In your opinion, what can you do to end Dáesh?
Answer: This is a very complicated matter, not by ISIS, because ISIS is an organization. There is something more dangerous with what to deal with, which are the reasons. First, ideology, something that has been instilled in the minds of people or society in the Arab world for decades, through institutions and Wahhabi Saudi money has been paid to support this dark and hateful ideology . If this ideology is not addressed, it is a mere waste of time to say we’re going to deal with Dáesh, al-Nusra or any other organization belonging to Al Qaeda. You Daesh-Al Qaeda, al-Nusra-Al Qaeda and many other organizations with the same ideology. Therefore, this is something that should be addressed in the long term: how to prevent these institutions and the Saudi Wahhabi money reach Muslim institutions around the world to turn them into extremists and to spread terrorism worldwide. This is the first. Then we need to talk about the short term and to address the current situation, with Dáesh in Syria and Iraq, mainly. Of course, the fight against terrorism is another obvious answer to that question, but we are talking about an ideology and an organization that has unlimited ability to recruit terrorists around the world. In Syria, we have over 100 nationalities who struggle with extremists and terrorists, Al Qaeda and Al-Nusra and others. The first step we must take in order to solve this problem is to stop the flow of terrorists, especially through Turkey to Syria and Iraq, and of course we have to stop the flow of money, Saudi money, Wahhabi money and Qatari money terrorists across Turkey, as well as weapons and other logistical support. That’s how we can start, and then if you want to talk about the other aspects that could be a political, economic, cultural issue, … has many aspects, but, for now, we must begin with stopping the flow, and at the same time combat terrorism from within Syria with Syrian Army and who wants to support the Army of Syria.
Question: Who buys crude Dáesh? Which countries are behind Dáesh?
Answer: The Russians published last week television pictures and videos of trucks carrying oil to cross the borders between Syria and Turkey. Of course, the Turks deny; It is very easy to deny, but let’s think about the reality: Most of the Syrian oil is in the northern part of Syria. If you want to export to Iraq, that’s impossible, because all parts of Iraq are fighting ISIS. Syria is the same. Lebanon is far away. Jordan, in the south, is also far. Therefore, the only lifeline for ISIS Turkey. Those trucks transporting crude from Syria to Turkey and Turkey selling it cheap to the world … I do not think anyone can doubt this undoubted reality.
Question: What countries are behind Dáesh?
Answer: There are several states, mainly Saudi Arabia, because both this country and this organization practice decapitation, follow the Wahhabi ideology and reject anyone who is not like them: not only those who are not Muslims, but also Muslims they are not like them. A Muslim may belong to the same religious group but if not like them, is rejected. So Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of such organizations. Of course, there are also individuals and different people who share the same ideology or
same belief and these people send money privately. But the matter does not depend solely on who sent the money but who facilitates the arrival of funds to these organizations. How could organizations considered terrorists around the world, as ISIS or al-Nusra, have hundreds of millions and have all these recruits, almost an almost complete as that of any other state and army have financial sources, if they have direct support, as is the case in Turkey, in particular. So Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, are the most responsible for the atrocities of ISIS.
Q: Yesterday saw the mortars fell near Damascus. It seems that this fight is far from over. When do you think the war will end in Syria?
Answer: If you want to talk about the Syrian conflict as a conflict isolated with the same situation, the same Syrian troops and allies of Syria and the terrorists themselves on the other side, we could finish it in a few months. It’s not very complicated in any way, either military or political. But if you’re talking about an inexhaustible supply of terrorists, and that these terrorists continue to receive recruits daily and receiving any kind of support whether financial, weapons and human resources, because all that will extend the war for a long time. Of course, this will have a high price. But in the end, we are making progress. I’m not saying that we are not progressing. Militarily the situation is much better than before, but again, the price is very high. That’s why I said earlier that if you want to end the war quickly-and most of the world is now saying they want to see an end to this crisis, then put pressure on the countries that you know: Turkey, Saudi Arabia , Qatar, and then, without doubt, this conflict will end in less than a year.
Question: Is there some kind of military coordination between the Syrian army and the incursions of the US-led coalition?
Answer: Not at all, there is no coordination. No connection in this sector and I mean the military. That is why this coalition continues for more than a year ago ISIS bombing, while ISIS continues to expand, because you can not fight terrorists from the air. You have to deal with them on the ground, so when the Russians began their participation in the war against terrorism, achievements of Russian and Syrian armies in a couple of weeks
They were much higher than those of the Alliance for over a year. In fact, they actually achieved nothing and we can say rather that were supporting ISIS, perhaps indirectly, since ISIS was expanding and getting more recruits. Therefore, we can not say that actually achieved something.
Question: What do you think of the role of Obama in this crisis?
Answer: Let’s talk about the US administration, because Obama, after all, is part of the Administration. You have lobbyists in the United States and from the start these terrorists were guaranteed political coverage. At first they called “peaceful demonstrators”. Then, when they discovered that they were terrorists were called “moderate terrorists”. In the end they had to admit it was ISIS or Al-Nusra, but after all are not objective, do not dare to say that they were wrong. They dare not say that Qatar at first, and then Saudi Arabia, they had been deceived. This is first. While second, until the United States does not take seriously the fight against terrorists, we can not expect the rest of the West do, because they are the allies of the United States, and so far the role of the Americans in this situation is being destroy ISIS or extremism or terrorism, and Obama said. He said he wants to contain terrorism and not destroy it. What does that mean? It means allowing to move in some places and not others. It is as if the matter were limited to define limits the harmful effect of ISIS. Therefore, we do not believe that Americans are being honest with the fight against terrorism.
Question: And what about the French President, Francois Hollande? He has spoken to destroy ISIS. Do you think the French will cooperate with your government?
Answer: Look what he did after the recent shootings in Paris last month. The French planes began to attack with heavy shelling ISIS. They said they wanted to fight and Holland said “we will be at war against terrorism.” What does that mean? It means that before the incident in Paris, were not at war against terrorism. Why did the same before these incidents? This means that this intense bombardment is only to dissipate the anger of French public opinion and not to fight terrorism. If you want to fight against terrorism, do not expect shootings to occur. The fight against terrorism is a principle and not a temporary situation in which you feel angry and thus decide to attack the terrorists. You must have values and principles to fight, and this fight must be sustainable. Therefore, this is another proof that the French are not serious in the fight against terrorism.
Question: What do you think about the EU in general? Is the EU position in this conflict? Could Europe do more?
Answer: Absolutely, definitely. They have the ability, but it is not just a question of ability but of will. The question we have always done-not only during the crisis but before, and perhaps over more than ten years, especially after the war in Iraq is, “There are still political Europe, or just a US satellite? So far, we see no independent political position. There are certain exceptions, we put them all in the bag, and the proof is the relationship between Europe and Russia, when US pressure on Europe to do something against their interests, in order to impose an embargo on Russian This is not realistic, it is not logical So of course you can;.. of course we have the same interest in fighting terrorism than we do. What happened in Paris recently and what happened in Madrid in 2004 and in New York in 2001, then in London, and recently in California, is a proof that the interest of all lies in combating terrorism, but who has the will and who has the vision? That is the question to which now I have an answer. But right now I am not optimistic that there is that will.
Question: What has asked President Putin in exchange for military help from Russia?
Answer: not asked for anything in return and that for one simple reason: because this is not a trade. In fact, the normal relationship between two countries is a relationship based on common interests. The question is what is the common interest of Syria and Russia? Does Russia have more interest in terrorism in Syria? In the collapse of the Syrian state? In anarchy? No, they do not. So let’s say that in return Russia wants is stability in Syria, Iraq and the whole region. We are not far from Russia, and let me go much further, saying that we are not far from Europe. Then the action of Russia in Syria constitutes an act in defense of Europe directly, and again, the recent terrorist events in Europe are proof that what is happening here will affect them positively or negatively.
Question: President Putin asked at some point to give up his position?
Answer: First, the question is: what is the relationship between the president remains in power or give up his position during the conflict? That is the first question that must be done. This customizing the problem is just a disguised way of saying that there is no problem with terrorism and countries that are not involved from abroad sending money and weapons to armed to create chaos and anarchy spread. Actually, they want to demonstrate that the matter is a president who wants to stay in power and a people that are being killed because fighting for freedom, and this president is oppressing and killing these people and why these people rebels . “This is a very romantic image that serves as a love story teens While the reality is completely different The question is whether my ouster is part of the solution in Syria;… part of a political solution and when say a political solution, it does not mean a western or external solution. It should be a Syrian solution completely. When the Syrian people do not want me to be your president, then I must leave that day, not the next day. This, to me It is a question of principle. If I think I can help my country, especially in a crisis, and if the Syrian people still support me, and to be more specific, say the majority of the Syrian people support me, then of course I have to stay. That’s obvious.
Question: As a hypothesis, you accept the possibility of leaving Syria in the future and leave for a friendly country, if this is the condition for reaching an agreement.
Answer: You mean I leave office?
Question: Leave office and leave Syria.
Answer: No, I never thought about leaving Syria under any circumstances and in any situation. It’s something I’ve never been in my mind as “plan B” or “plan C”, as they say the Americans. Not really. But again, the same answer: it depends on the Syrian population; Do they support me or not? If I have your support, it means that I am not the problem, because if I were the problem as a person, the Syrian people would be against me. Where is the logic in that the people or the majority of people support me when I am the reason for the conflict? This is a part. On the other hand, if I have a problem with the Syrians or the most Syrians, and I have the countries of the region and the world against me; and most of the West, the United States, its allies and the strongest and richest world countries against me, and I am against the Syrian people, then how I can be to remain president ?. That is not logical. I’m still here after five years – or almost five years of war, because I have the support of most Syrians.
Question: Is it true that the Russians build another military base in Syria?
Answer: No, that’s not true, and two days ago they themselves denied. If there was something, they would have announced, and we had announced at the same time.
Question: Are the Iranians planning to build its own military base here?
Answer: No. They never thought about it and never raised or discussed the issue.
Question: Is it possible to include the president Erdogan in the solution to the crisis?
Answer: In principle, we have no problem with it, if you’re willing to give up the criminal attitude that has been adopted since the beginning of the crisis, supporting the terrorists with all possible ways. At the end of the day, we are ready to welcome any help or positive engagement that comes from anywhere. This is in principle. But A case can we hope that Erdogan change its position? No, for one reason, which is that Erdogan is a believer in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, so they can not act against their ideology. He is a pragmatic man thinking about the interests of his country. He is working against the interests of his country in favor of their ideology, whether it realistic or not. So we do not expect Erdogan to change.
Q: US Secretary of State, Kerry announced travel to Moscow to meet with Putin. Are not you afraid that you are preparing some sort of agreement between the US and Moscow, Ukraine in exchange for Syria?
Answer: No, because nearly five years have passed, and we have always been listening to that argument, or say that idea by Western officials. This aims to create a kind of gap between Syria and Russia. The Russians are pragmatists, but at the same time are adopting a policy based on moral values and principles, not just in interest, and how good your position is that there is no conflict or contradiction between their values and interests. This is first. While secondly, whether there is any agreement, for example, the Russians know very well that you can not implement any solution, if not based on an agreement between the Syrians themselves and, therefore, neither Russia nor the United States nor any country in the world can sign an agreement within this framework. We as Syrians are the ones who can establish an agreement between Syrians, and are the ones who can make a dialogue between Syrians. That’s what the Russians know very well. And that’s why we do not make such mistakes, thanks to the values they have.
Question: Returning to Turkey, how do you see the demolition of the Russian aircraft? Was it an accident or deliberate?
Answer: Since the start of Russian military involvement in Syria with regard to the fight against terrorist organizations, the situation on the ground has changed in a positive way, and Erdogan, that frustrate their ambitions, and if Syria fails Erdogan constitute its political purpose. It’s like holding the condolences of his political future and ambitions of making Turkey the epicenter of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region and that governments appoint Brotherhood, with his followers worldwide. He believes that the last bastion of his dream is Syria. If Syria fails, as it failed in Egypt and elsewhere, you will think that this is the end of his career. Therefore, their reaction was a foolish reaction, which reflects his thinking and his gut instinct about Russian participation. This is the first aspect of the issue of demolition of the Russian fighter. The second is that he thought NATO would help, and would push NATO into conflict with Russia and the result would further complicate the situation on the ground in Syria, and perhaps realize his dream of establishing a zone air exclusion where I can send terrorists to use them as a kind of state against legitimate state here in Syria. That was his ambition, his thinking and his plan in Syria.
Question: Mr. President, the United States considered responsible for the civil war and terrorist boom in Syria. His enemies blamed for the deaths of 250,000 people since the war began. He is also accused of bombing civilians. How he defends himself against such accusations?
Answer: Now the whole war in Syria since the beginning of the conflict revolved around who would attract more Syrians on their part. That was the war from the beginning. How one can kill people to gain their support? This is impossible. At the same time, there is a good war; all wars are bad. So whenever there is war, there are things you should avoid, but you can not. In every war there and there will be civilian casualties and innocent victims. This is the tragic and dangerous aspects of any war. That’s why we have to end the war. But to say that the government attacked civilians, does not make sense, what is gained by attacking civilians? Currently, the reality is that if you want to go out there in Syria, was surprised to see that most of the families of the armed groups do not live with them, live under the umbrella of the government, and receiving support from the Government, which It is another proof that we do not work against the civilians and kill them, otherwise they would not have sought help from the Government. Therefore, these allegations are unfounded.
Question: Mr. President, we want to send a message to Syrian refugees who have fled the country, many of them to Europe and even to Spain. What is your message to them?
Answer: Most of the refugees are in contact with their families in Syria, so we are still in contact with them. Most of these refugees are supporters of the government but went by the situation created by the terrorists, direct threats and killings, and because terrorists destroyed infrastructure, and the embargo imposed by the West on Syria, where basic needs are not asequibles.Así are, really, I do not need to send a message, for they will return when the situation mejore.A most of them loves their country, love this country. In fact, the message I would like to send, is aimed at European governments, because they are the ones who brought the terrorists, they are the ones who caused this situation, they helped the terrorists, and they created a direct impact on embargo benefit of terrorists and urged immigrants to leave Syria and go elsewhere. Therefore, if you are working for the good of the Syrian people, as you said, the first thing to do is to lift the embargo. The second thing to do is stop the flow of terrorists. So I think the message should be directed to Western governments that helped his departure to live in their countries.
Question: Do you forgive terrorists if they give up their weapons?
Answer: Of course, this is already happening in Syria. What we call “reconciliation” is the only real political solution that gave fruitful results and create a positive reality in different places in Syria. The essence of reconciliation is based on the terrorists give up their weapons and the government grant them amnesty or pardon. Of course, in my opinion, I think this is the only good way to solve the problem.
Question: If I were to March 2011, would you make different decisions?
Answer: In the day, there is always something you wanted to do better. That’s natural, because there are many details, but if we talk about the pillars of our policy, because they are based on two things. First, the invitation to dialogue from the first day. Although at first we thought it was not political, we said we were ready for political dialogue, ready to change the Constitution, to change many laws, and we did, we did in 2012, a year after the conflict began. At the same time, from the beginning we said we were going to fight terrorism and terrorists. Do not change any of these things, or not to adopt the dialogue and the fight against terrorism. Anything else is not a pillar. If you refer to daily practice, of course there are many mistakes made in practice, either by me or by the other institutions and others responsible. That’s obvious. Right now I have no example in the head, but perhaps one of the things we would not do is rely on numerous officials, Western, regional or Arab, as the Turks or others; or believe they really wanted to help Syria at some point. This is the only thing I would not do again.
Question: How do you explain to your children what is happening in Syria? Would you like to follow in his footsteps?
Answer: You mean to follow my steps in politics?
Answer: I think that politics is not a job you do, and it’s not a book to read, and not a specialty that studies in college. So you can not teach children to be political; It can be taught as they prepare for a job. In fact, politics is everything in life; It is the sum of the economy, society and culture, is all that is lived daily. So, depending on the path they take their children in this regard. For me, the most important thing is to help them help their country, but how? They are political in the future or work in any other job. This is not a very important issue for me, but not try to influence them; it is they who have to choose their path. I have to explain as much as you can the reality of our country, so that they can understand it well and decide which path they want to follow.
Question: Thank you, Mr. President for the interview and for your time.
Answer: Thanks for coming to Syria
Jose Antonio Vera and Jose Manuel Sanz