Syrian Ambassador to India, Dr Riad Abbas says PM Modi is correct in his belief that there is no good or bad terrorism.
The Syrian Ambassador to India, Dr Riad Abbas, spoke to The Sunday Guardian on multiple issues, including the present situation in the country, the role played by the United States of America (USA) and Israel to aggravate the problem in this middle-eastern country and why the Syrian government considers India as one of its closest friends. Excerpts:
Q: What is the status on the ground right now in Syria?
A: As you know, we are fighting terrorism on behalf of the world. Terrorists from 82 countries came to Syria; we have defeated them and now 92% of Syria is in the control of our government. The terrorists that still remain are being eliminated, our army is killing them, their parent countries are not ready to take them back. These remaining terrorists and terror groups are receiving funding from some GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, under the eyes of the USA. This is the situation right now in Idlib city where these terrorists are held up.
Q: Have they not been completely defeated? Is the fight still going on?
A: The fight is still going on in Idlib city. The Turkish military is supporting these terrorists and hence it is still going on. We are confident that we will defeat them with the support of our allies like Iran, Russia .
Q: When the civil war broke out in the country in the wake of the Arab Spring, everyone predicted that President Bashar-al-Assad will be removed, either by the people or by the intervention of international forces. More than seven years on, he is still the president. What do you attribute this to, especially when one considers that many heads of state lost their position in different countries in this time period?
A: Syria is different from other Arab countries. Our president is also different from other leaders of Arab countries because he came to power by majority support of Syrian people and not like his counterparts in other countries who came through appointment by the United States. He has massive support from everyone across the country. We have a strong army; no defections took place during these tumultuous times and the army continued to stand with a leader that was democratically chosen. No external country can force our army to stage a coup against our president. The most important thing is that none of our army officers took training in America and no officer can speak the English language. Our allies supported us due to which America and other western countries, despite media propaganda, were not able to dislodge us. The Western world says that our president should resign and fresh election should be held. On behalf of him, I want to say to these countries that their leaders should resign and seek election. Who will be our president will be decided by our people, not by any outsider. We don’t change our policy every other day, we stay on our path, unlike the Western countries like the United States.
Q: There are allegations that the Syrian army attacked its own innocent, unarmed citizens. What do you have to say about that?
A: As your army carries out operations in Kashmir against the terrorists, we attack the terrorists in the same way, we don’t target innocent people. We have the right to defeat, attack the terrorists, just like any other army in the world. It is our right to establish security and stability in our country.
Q: As of now, how many armies of different countries are present in Syria—either for you or against you?
A: As I said earlier, we are fighting against terror groups who have members from 82 countries. These terror groups are getting direct support from the United States, they are operating from illegal US bases in Syria, the US supports ISIS directly; they created them. ISIS is a part of the Al-Qaeda that was created by the US, by CIA, to harm us because we are against the US policies and projects in the the Middle East. There is Turkish intervention in the land of Syria; it is supporting terror groups that are listed in UN.
Turkey’s own leader is a member of Muslim Brotherhood party. As you must be aware, Muslim Brotherhood is composed of all terror groups. Even in your neighbouring country, organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammad supports the Muslim Brotherhood.
Our allies came to Syria to help us to defeat terror groups. You must remember that Modiji had clearly stated that there is no good terrorism or bad terrorism, terrorism is terrorism. Your government has repeatedly called for the world to unite against terrorism, which we highly appreciate and support. All the countries following the American policies are supporting terrorism which includes Turkey, some GCC countries and also Israel, especially under the present Prime Minister Netanyahu.
We are against Zionists, but we are not against the Jewish people. We protect Jews who are in Syria, outside Syria. We welcome all Jews in Syria.
The Americans say something, do something else. They do not have permanent friends, but permanent interests. American intervention in Syria in illegal, Russian forces came because we invited them. America came to support terrorism.
The Russian army came to our country at the request of our government, to support our army. The same holds true for Iran, to whom we requested for specialist officers to come to our country and teach our men how to defeat terrorism. You have to understand that there is no Iranian army in Syria, at all, only experts are there. When we were on the way to defeat the terrorists, Israel and Netanyahu attacked us, which shows that they are supporting the terrorists on the ground in Syria.
Q: Just like Syria, India is also facing terrorism that is emanating from a third country, Pakistan. How does Syria see this, especially when one considers that Pakistan is an Islamic country?
A: Terrorism is terrorism, as Modiji rightly said; there is no good or bad terrorism. We are in support of your country which is also fighting terrorism. We are also facing cross-border terrorism; we know how people suffer in these situations. We support the idea that India and Pakistan will solve their problems among themselves, without any other country being involved, through political discussion.
Q: Understandably, the Syrian economy right now is going southwards with rising inflation and unemployment. What is the Syrian government doing to tackle this?
A: Syria is the richest country in the Middle East because of the rich natural resources it possesses. That is why a conflict has been imposed on us by America as they want our natural resources by force, which we will not allow.
Syria has the largest resources of natural gas, we have oil reserves and huge fields of phosphate. The US has nothing to do with democracy in Syria, what they call Arab Spring was “Bloody Winters” for us. We have big plans on how to rebuild our country. For that, we also depend on support from our friendly countries. As I told you, we are a country rich in mineral resources, when we start producing it, utilising it, we will not need any funding from outside, but definitely we need the support of India in construction and in the power sector to rebuild our country.
Indian companies, who want to invest in Syria, are being given “priority” personally by our president, but we will not allow those countries that support terrorism to operate in Syria and help us or to get benefits by rebuilding our country.
Q: The perception in India is that Syria is still unsafe, dangerous for investors and workers. How would you respond to these apprehensions?
A: Your Embassy and your Ambassador are working in Damascus; that means that there is security and stability there. As I said earlier, 92% of Syria is under the control of our government. We support all Indians who want to do business in Syria. Last year in the Damascus trade fair, more than 200 Indians participated. Safety is not an issue. We welcome all Indians; I assure you that those who come to our country will feel that they are still in India.
Q: How would you describe the relationship between PM Modi and President Al-Assad?
A: Once the result of the general elections came out in May, our president directly sent his greeting to PM Modiji and greeted him. This shows how much we are keen to enhance our relations with India. We welcome his coming back to power, and we are very happy for this. The right democracy is only practised in India, the democracy in Western country is a sham. Their democracy calls for interfering in other countries, which they did in Libya, following which the President was killed and Libya disappeared from the map. Those who want to learn democracy should come to India and learn it. Where there is American democracy, there is chaos. Peace has spread across the world from India, it was here that the spirit of peace resides. Modiji has given 1,000 scholarships for people of Syria. He has been very kind to Syria. We highly appreciate this.
We have good relations with India for many years now and we have shared similar positions on many different issues on the international arena. We highly appreciate the Indian stand on Syrian issues which is based on three principles—against any external intervention, political solution to problems of Syria and respect of the aspirations of the Syrian people. India has always supported Syrian people, outside Syria and inside Syria.