Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the main objective of the Geneva II peace talks this week should be a decision on the “fight against terrorism,” and if his government loses the country’s war it would create “chaos throughout the Middle East.”
“The Geneva conference should produce clear results with regard to the fight against terrorism in Syria,” he said in an exclusive interview with AFP published on Monday.
“This is the most important decision or result that the Geneva conference could produce. Any political solution that is reached without fighting terrorism has no value.”
Speaking at the presidential palace in Damascus, days before the beginning date of the Geneva II peace talks, Assad said he expected his country’s bloody conflict to drag on, calling it a “fight against terrorism” and rejecting any distinction between opposition fighters and radical jihadists.
The Syrian leader said he expected the country’s conflict to grind on, although he said his forces were making progress.
The conflict, which began in March 2011, has cost more than 100,000 lives, and has displaced millions of Syrians.
“What we can say is that we are making progress and moving forward. This doesn’t mean that victory is near at hand; these kinds of battles are complicated, difficult and they need a lot of time,” he said.
“But when you’re defending your country, it’s obvious that the only choice is to win,” added Assad.
“This battle is not..., as Western propaganda portrays, a popular uprising against a government suppressing its people and a revolution calling for democracy and freedom,” he said.
“A popular revolution doesn’t last for three years only to fail. Moreover, a national revolution cannot have a foreign agenda.”
Assad warned of the consequences if his government lost the war.
“Should Syria lose this battle, that would mean the spread of chaos throughout the Middle East,” he added.
In terms of resigning his position and the formation of a new national unity which would include opposition members abroad to a future government, the Syrian president dismissed the idea.
“I see no reason why I shouldn’t stand,” Assad said of the presidential elections in June. “If there is public desire and a public opinion in favor of my candidacy, I will not hesitate for a second to run for election.”
“In short, we can say that the chances for my candidacy are significant,” added Assad.
Assad appeared at ease, wearing a navy blue suit and smiling regularly throughout the 45-minute interview.
He answered the first three questions on camera, and an AFP photographer was able to take pictures.
He spoke from the plush surroundings of the Palace of the People on a Damascus hillside, but said he neither lives nor works in the building, finding it too large, preferring his office or home.
Assad, 48, came to power in 2000 after the death of his father Hafez, who ruled for nearly 30 years.
He was elected in a referendum after his father’s death and won another seven-year term in July 2007.
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