|Iran says political vacuum in Syria would undermine regional stability||
TEHRAN – In the event Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power, the ensuing political vacuum in the country would undermine both Syria’s integrity and regional stability, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Salehi made the remarks during a recent interview with Euronews on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.
Following is the text of the interview, which was published on Monday:
Euronews: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, thank you very much for being with us here on euronews. Iran and Syria say they are going to respond to the reported Israeli air strike on a Syrian weapons base. Is that true?
Salehi: Well, I have never heard of anyone saying that we will be responding, but what we have said is that what Israel has done is a serious issue. This air strike, I would call it an intervention (aimed at) inflicting harm on another country and another people, is not allowed by international conventions and by UN conventions. So what Israel has committed is against international rules and regulations and it may have serious consequences.
Euronews: Such as?
Salehi: When I say serious consequences – Syria is in a very sensitive region and if this crisis spills over to other countries we will be facing a huge fire that will burn “wet and dry”, this is a saying in my own language. “Wet and dry” (means) that everybody will be burnt by the spillover of the Syrian crisis to other neighboring countries.
Euronews: So how would that play out? Who would be the actors that are making this burn?
Salehi: So with such actions that have been taken by the Zionist regime…
Euronews: Which they deny, for the sense of fairness, they do deny that, that they carried out this air strike.
Salehi: They do deny it? No, they have admitted that they have made an air strike…
Euronews: That’s not what officials on the sidelines of the conference said to me.
Salehi: Well, we are basing our information on what we have received from the Syrian government. (…) Even the UN has responded to this, the UN secretary general. If this has not happened, how is it that the UN secretary general has taken a position in this regard?
Euronews: So, looking at Syria, if there is the fall of Assad, as many people in the West hope and expect to happen, what do you think will happen?
Salehi: Certainly, that will lead to a vacuum, and if there is a vacuum in Syria, the integrity of Syria will be undermined, and we will not be sure Syria will be kept as an integral country anymore.
This will be a source of instability in the region and that source of instability will initiate instabilities all over the region. It will even go as far as, probably, Central Asia. Because the only way that could lead to the resolution of this issue is for the government and the opposition to sit down together and solve the problem within the Syrian community, within the Syrian people. In other words we, call it a Syrian-Syrian resolution of the issue. We should not expect that this issue be resolved through prescriptions, ready-made prescriptions written outside Syria then imposed on the Syrian people. That will not work.
Euronews: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said earlier at this conference that the offer of direct negotiations with America remains open if Iran is serious about it. Are you serious about it? Would you welcome that?
Salehi: When it comes to negotiations on certain subjects, thematic negotiations I would call them, this time nuclear negotiations, there is no red line on this…
Euronews: I was about to ask you what your red lines were.
Salehi: But, but this negotiation can only take place when we get enough assurances that this time the U.S. comes forward with honest intentions, because our previous experiences, unfortunately, have shown the opposite.
Euronews: Is that what made you decide to continue with the enrichment program? Let’s imagine, I put myself in the Iranians’ position and, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are seeking the capacity for an atomic weapon. You hear Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, talking about all the old expressions, “every option is on the table”, including the military option. Perhaps Israel has a nuclear weapon. You look at U.S. action in the region and perhaps, based on this argument, that is why you would proceed down that path. It is a question of survival.
Salehi: We have said it always, right from the beginning, that a nuclear weapon has no place in our defense doctrine, for a number of reasons. One reason is because of our religious tenets and principles, our beliefs. Also our leader has issued a fatwa, a religious decree, that would forbid anybody to go into nuclear weapons development in my country.
The other aspect, when we look at it from the pragmatic point of view, suppose Iran develops one or two, three or four rudimentary bombs, can it really compete with a country like the U.S. in this regard? Can it be on par with any other country that has been in this domain of developing nuclear weapons for decades? Certainly, that will not be a deterrent for us because with our neighbors we have no problem.
Euronews: Many so-called experts state very frequently in the Western media and elsewhere that Iranian foreign policy is to wipe Israel off the map. So I am just looking for a very clear and unequivocal statement that (it) is completely false.
Salehi: You see we do not recognize the state of Israel, but we have never ever spoken of obliterating people. When we said, when I said when it comes to using weapons of mass destruction, we have completely denied ourselves this right.
Euronews: Will you run for the presidency of Iran? Is that a job that you want?
Salehi: No I am not fit for that job.
Euronews: So you rule yourself out, we will not be seeing you at the next elections as a candidate?
Salehi: Well I don’t know if I will be phased out it depends on the president who comes. He may keep me, he may not keep me.
Euronews: Mr. Salehi thank you very much for being here with us on euronews.
Salehi: Thank you.
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