Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
President Assad gave a long interview to al-Khaleej March 9 2009 (In Arabic, United Arab Emirates)
The following is my loose translation of a few of the main points. President Assad’s answers to questions about Elections in Lebanon and the Hariri trial suggest that he is putting down a few markers.
Assad: Syria has had good relations with the Emirates, especially during last two years. Syria stands with the Emirates in their policy toward the three Iranian-occupied Islands.
Syria supports a peaceful resolution of this issue. Syria can help because of its good relations with Iran.
On Arab Summits:
The Arab countries should meet to solve the points that they don’t agree on. The visit of the Saudi Foreign Minister was one of a series of efforts to resolve Arab differences. It achieved progress on the issue of repairing relations.
Assad insisted on the conditions for direct negotiations with Israel. The first of which is to give back the land, which is non-negotiable. Assad doubts how trustworthy the Israeli leaders are.
He said if Israel provided all the conditions that Syria asks for, of course Syria will agree to sign an agreement. He distinguished between a peace agreement which
“There is a difference between a peace agreement and peace itself. A peace agreement is a piece of paper you sign. This does not mean trade and normal relations, or borders, or otherwise,” he said.
“Our people will not accept that, especially since there are half a million Palestinians in our country whose position remains unresolved. It is impossible under these terms to have peace in the natural sense.”
The initial signs of this administration are positive and it demonstrates greater acceptance of engagement comparing to the previous administration concerning his pronouncements about Syria and Iraq. “But we want specific, clear words.” (For more on his statement about peace with Israel and the possibility of a resumption of negotiations see this reuters article
On US accusations that Israel bombed an nuclear site in Syria: Assad: Alleged nuclear site hit by IAF has been built over. Syrian president Bashar Assad denounced U.S. claims that a Syrian site bombed by Israel two years ago was a nearly finished nuclear reactor, and said in comments published Monday that the location has been built over. ..
The president answers questions from journalists:
1. How very good relations are between the Emirates and Syria…
2. About the economic environment for investment. “There is weakness in the follow up to investment agreements with the Emirates….”
What is important is for the Lebanese to reach an understanding and to live with agreement. Agreement brings stability. If there is no agreement between the factions, there will be no stability. The importance of this election comes from whether the winner will take Lebanon toward agreement or not. If they take it towards agreement over everything, I think this is an important turning point that will create stability in Lebanon. And if there is another power that wants to destroy the agreement under “I am the winner” regardless of who it is or which every side it belongs to, there will be one result which is to destroy the stability in Lebanon following the period of stability in Lebanon that was reached following the Doha agreement.
Question: Do you think what happened in Bou Kamal will not happen again (US Special Forces attacking Syrians in a cross border raid.)?
Assad: So long as there is occupation, there cannot be assurances regardless of which administration is in office. But announcing the withdrawal and giving it a date certain gives more assurance and reduces our anxiety, but it is not a complete assurance. This is an important step that the previous administration had not taken.
If the Iraqis are given complete authority to rule themselves, (and I don’t know if this is completely possible) we can say that we are assured.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister came to Syria after the attack on Bou Kamal and before signing the US-Iraq agreement in order to say that they put clear points that prevent Iraq from being used as a base for attacks against any country. And this is good if it is going to be implemented.
Question: Do you believe that political reform in Syria is necessary in order to unite Syria to confront what Syria is going through? And do you think that there will be steps toward political pluralism in Syria and general freedoms, in particular press freedoms. Are you intending to release educated opposition members because of the demands of human rights organizations? This is an issue that has been used against Syria.
Assad: Even if we are 100% wrong and the human rights organizations are 100% right, your demands are rejected because you are outside of Syria and you do not have the right to interfere in Syria’s internal issues. And where were those organizations during the 1,500 people who were murdered in Gaza, and one million and a half were killed in the unfair war in Iraq?
Public Sector and Economics:
Assad: The public sector is an important part of the Syrian economy. We need to make improvements to the administration of the sector to get rid of corruption and mismanagement. We support the private sector but not at the expense of the public sector. That has been our policy during the last years. A big portion of the Syrian economy depends on the public sector and if we do not support this sector we will lose a great deal.
Do you have an intention to create a separate ministry to improve the public sector?
We are talking about this. We have many ideas.
Question: How worried are you that it will be politicized?
Assad: “There are no guarantees; and we do not see that everything in the world is far from objectivity. If the UN itself does not carry out its duties along with the Security Council, there is nothing to guarantee, but if it is politicized, Lebanon will be the first to pay the price. I hope there will not be politicization of the court. There are no guarantees.