Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad told in an interview with the Voice of Russia how the process of chemical disarmament of the Arab Republic is proceeding, on what factors the opening date of Geneva-2 depends, what is the internal situation in the country and why has the West recently changed its position in Syrian question.
Guest in the studio "Voices of Russia" - Riad Haddad, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic in the Russian Federation.
The interview is conducted by Marianna Ozhereleva.
Ozherelyeva: Hello! Guest in the studio "Voices of Russia" - Riad Haddad, Syrian Ambassador to Russia. Mr. Ambassador, hello.
Ozherelyeva: The process of chemical disarmament of Syria has begun. Now the attention of the entire world community is riveted on this topic. At what stage is this process now?
Haddad: Allow me to begin by thanking your company "Voice of Russia" for inviting us.
Ozherelyeva: Thank you.
Haddad: I would like to begin by thanking him. We highly value the position of the Russian Federation, it seeks to find a peaceful solution to the problem at the international level. This is a position that neither the Americans nor the West want to take. I would like to note that the Syrian crisis is not a regional crisis, it is a world crisis. And therefore, it should be resolved only with the help of international law.
With regard to joining the process of chemical disarmament, Syria agreed to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons (OPCW). This was a response to the initiative of the Russian Federation headed by President Vladimir Putin. There was also a UN Security Council resolution 2118.
UN representatives came to Syria in order to study the locations of chemical weapons and then to destroy it. Syria has provided all the possibilities and all the information on the location and quantity of chemical weapons. In some places, this chemical weapon was dismantled. Therefore, I can assume that while the process is going well.
Ozherelyeva: Do you believe that this process will be the beginning for the settlement of the Syrian conflict?
Haddad: We cannot say that at the moment the Syrian crisis will be solved only because of the solution of the problem of chemical weapons. The Syrian government’s agreement on chemical disarmament is a step towards a Geneva-2 peace conference. Even the 2118 resolution contains such a request. It contains a warning for all countries that in no case should this process be disrupted.
Ozherelyeva: It is expected that the peace conference "Geneva-2" will be held in November. Now Russia and the United States are engaged in its preparation. What do you think, at what time - at the beginning, in the middle, at the end of November - can it be held? Under what conditions? Are the Syrian authorities ready for the November conference?
Haddad: Damascus, the Syrian government from the very beginning was the initiator of the All-Syrian dialogue. The government has shown willingness to participate in the conference without preconditions. Our delegation is ready to attend this conference.
But this process is hampered by terrorist groups that are supported by al-Qaida and its allies, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
They are not one of the parties to the negotiations. We will not deal in the negotiation process with terrorists. I think that neither the United Nations, nor the Russian Federation, nor other forces should expect us to negotiate with terrorism.
We will deal with the so-called national opposition, whose members did not hold weapons in their hands and did not organize massacres and massacres in the country, with the opposition that considers it necessary to preserve the integrity of the country. Currently in Syria there are terrorists who come from more than 80 states of the world. How can we deal with them?
Ozherelyeva: Who today represents this national opposition? Does she have a single leader who could sit at the negotiating table with the Syrian authorities?
Haddad: Up to this point, the opposition could not form a single delegation to go to negotiations with the government at this conference. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said that the opposition needs to form a single delegation in order to go to negotiations. Opposition must agree with those countries that support it - this is Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France.
Ozherelyeva: The President of Russia expressed the wish that Islamic states should take part in the Geneva Conference. He named Indonesia among those. What do you think, what Islamic countries could become a participant in these negotiations?
Haddad: This applies primarily to those countries that will organize this conference. And since our friends in the Russian Federation were the initiators of this conference, we believe that we fully agree with our friends in the Russian Federation on the proposal for the participation of any state in this conference.
Ozherelyeva: Mr. Ambassador, you occupied this position in the year when the Syrian crisis began, in 2011. You are a participant, you see what is happening in Syria during this conflict. When it all started, did you think it would end soon?
Haddad: I was appointed Ambassador of the Syrian Republic to the Russian Federation eight months after the start of the crisis. The first eight months of the conflict I spent in Syria.
At the moment, everyone without exception knows what is happening in Syria. A world-wide conspiracy has been created against Syria, the so-called Arab Spring has begun. It is clear to all - both politicians and experts - that this is being done to preserve the hegemony of the West and America in the Middle East. We see that the terrorists are supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Western countries - America, France and the United Kingdom.
The Americans collaborated with political Islam. They have experience with such a policy in Afghanistan. They themselves created jihadists. The origins of jihadism are the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria opposed the Muslim Brotherhood back in the 1980s. The Syrians defeated them, and they fled abroad. After that, they began to talk about democracy, about human rights, and with these slogans they returned to the country. Their goal, when the crisis began, was to overthrow the regime. This is visible. But in practice, they want to destroy Syria - the opposition has agreed with their patrons abroad.
Oppositionists receive weapons from the outside, fought and are still fighting. No Syrians arrived, people from abroad. They have never been involved in politics, they have neither an economic nor a social program. They took up arms in order to destroy the country.
Bush carried out his policy of war, but then it became clear that he had lost both economically and politically. When Obama became president, he used so-called soft power - this is a political, informational, and economic war. This war is by proxy.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other similar organizations began to fight for the Americans. They blocked our country both economically and politically, imposed sanctions against us. This was done by the Europeans, the Arab League (LAS) and the Americans. These sanctions economically affected the lives of every citizen of Syria.
As for the information war, it is a ban on public broadcasting via satellite communications. This information war is a precedent; there has never been such an information war against a specific state in the whole world.
They destroyed the power station. They have destroyed or controlled some oil wells. They destroyed the factories, the equipment was taken from there to Turkey. Destroy railway lines, smuggle, export cultural property. They stole all the grain reserves in the granaries and sent them to Turkey for sale for a pittance.
But most importantly, they forced the citizens of the country to leave, to emigrate to other countries. They set up temporary camps for the Syrians who left there, and their houses are used to fight the government army. At this point, 3062 schools have been destroyed in Syria, around 675 hospitals. Approximately 770 plants were either completely destroyed or their equipment was exported to Turkey. 55 churches and mosques were destroyed. And these people say that they are opposition and want reforms and development of the country!
Ozherelyeva: All these atrocities were actually supported by Europeans and Americans. Previously, they stated that the opposition should come to power and the Assad regime should fall. Now the US and the EU have somewhat slowed down. Who and what, in your opinion, influenced these changes?
Haddad: First of all, I want to say about the resilience of the people, the government and the president of Syria for two years. The army is still steadfast and fighting against terrorism, although at first it was believed that the crisis would end within two weeks and Syria would fall.
The second factor - and I think the main one - is the support of the Russian Federation in the political and other spheres. Not without reason I began our conversation with a high assessment of the position of the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation constantly proves that it is a state of principles, a state of human rights. Unfortunately, very few states remain that adhere to international principles.
Summing up, I will say that this happened thanks to the resilience of our people and the support of our friends.
Ozherelyeva: Mr. Ambassador, which areas of Syria have suffered most during the years of the conflict?
Haddad: The greatest harm was done to the city of Homs. It is also the city of Aleppo (Aleppo), which is considered the economic capital of our country. When I said that factories had been “stolen” in Syria, basically, this concerns Aleppo - it is located on the border with Turkey.
Ozherelyeva: You said that the economy of Syria is in fact destroyed. What means the country lives now? Countries, in particular Russia, provide humanitarian assistance, but what else?
Haddad: I would not say that the economy was completely destroyed. We have suffered a lot because of the crisis, the economy is much weaker, but it is developing. Of course, there is the support of our friends led by the Russian Federation. Also economically, Syria is supported by Iran, the BRICS countries.
We produced approximately 380 barrels of oil per day. Terrorist groups have destroyed or captured almost all the wells. Oil exports stopped completely. More recently, in Homs attacked the main Syrian oil refinery (oil refinery).
Imagine what would happen to any other state, if it had to survive the blockade, the sanctions of the West led by the Americans, destroyed production.
But, as I said, Syria is holding on steadfastly. The people and the government go ahead, oppose this conspiracy. Almost all citizens support the Syrian leadership in the fight against terrorism. They realize what is happening, the conspiracy that exists against our country. We want Syria to remain a secular country, so that it does not become an Islamic caliphate.
Ozherelyeva: Mr. Ambassador, why do people support Assad so much? Citizens during the "Arab spring" saw what happened to other countries where regimes fell? The most vivid example is that which was in Libya. Or is this due to the high confidence that they had previously placed on Bashar Assad?
Haddad: Every citizen of the Syrian Republic understands what is really happening. We saw what happened in Tunisia, Iraq, Libya. We saw how Muslims seized power in Egypt. They want to build an Islamic country there. They threw this state a hundred years ago. Libya is still in chaos. There is no stability in Tunisia.
The Syrian people do not want others to decide for him, that his opinion is not taken into account. The Syrian leadership is supported by the faith of the people. Our army is united and goes forward to fight the terrorists.
We are fighting for Syria to remain a secular state, so that it remains one of the largest cultural centers in the world. The approximate cost of restoring destroyed in Syria is one hundred billion dollars.
Ozhereleva: For how many years?
Haddad: It depends on the amount of support of our friends. In addition, it depends on the capabilities of Syria itself, what will remain there after the end of the conflict. This is a very difficult process.
Ozherelyeva: Do you admit that everything that happens in Libya, in Egypt, in Syria is a kind of international project of certain political forces that are ready to establish their regimes in sovereign states?
Haddad: From the very beginning, I said that the “Arab Spring” is a pure spectacle. With it, the Americans want to establish hegemony in the Middle East.
Ozhereleva: What is the main task of resolving the conflict at the initial stage today? To the opposition lay down their arms?
Haddad: Mr. President Bashar Asad has repeatedly stated that we are ready to accept every citizen who will lay down their arms, who can go on the negotiation process. But this is on condition that he did not participate in any slaughterhouse in Syria.
If we want to start negotiations, the first thing to do is to stop the slaughter. But violence can be stopped only if the patrons of these terrorists from the outside stop their financing and arming these groups. Only then can we achieve the desired result.
Ozherelyeva: Mr. Ambassador, do you admit that the opposition will organize provocations in view of the beginning of the process of eliminating chemical weapons in Syria?
Haddad: I do not rule out this, because the opposition in Syria has chemical weapons, namely, sarin gas. They can really go on provocations to provoke external interference.
Ozherelyeva: Some countries say that they are interested in solving the conflict in Syria through political means, but earlier they said that it was necessary to solve it by military means. They changed their position, they realized that they were not negotiating with those that the opposition only declares that it is ready to come to power?
Haddad: There are several factors that caused them to change their position to some extent. The first factor: Russia initially understood what was actually happening in Syria. More than two years later, some Western countries, including the United States, are only beginning to realize what the Russians realized long ago. The Russian Federation has forced these players in the international arena to reconsider their positions and think about where they are going. This is the main factor for other countries to change their minds.
The second factor is the resilience of the people of our country. Other countries thought that everything would end in two weeks, as happened in other countries, but this was not the case. International players really feel the severity of the conflict, they spend billions of dollars on financing and arming the opposition, but to no avail. The international community has gradually begun to recognize what is happening in Syria.
Ozherelyeva: Syria will need billions of dollars to eliminate chemical weapons. It is clear that the country cannot cope with it on its own. Have any states already offered their help?
Haddad: Yes, Syria cannot suddenly be engaged in this process by itself, therefore international players should help her in this.
Ozherelyeva: It was determined that Syria should complete all work by the middle of next year. Do you think this time is enough for such a large work?
Haddad: If there is adequate support and intensive work by the OPCW, we will complete this process in one year.
Ozherelyeva: Mr. Ambassador, I understand that it is difficult to make any predictions, but according to your expectations, when will the armed confrontation stop in Syria?
Haddad: When the Americans want to stop funding and arming groups, maybe this will end. When the United States instructs all its allies in the region to stop this process - Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. When the US gives instructions to these states, then the funding and arming of terrorist groups will stop.