‘If West stops military aid to opposition, Syria will be at negotiation table the very next day’

Tensions are running high around Syria as Turkey vows "proportionate” retaliation for its downed jet, be it new sanctions or a “political option”. Damascus insists Western military aid to opposition the only obstacle to peaceful conflict resolution.

­Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Mikdad explained to RT the government's stance on a solution to the ongoing crisis, and his reaction to international efforts to mediate, or in his view, to fuel the conflict.

RT: Dr. Faisal, General Robert Mood, head of the United Nations supervision mission in Syria, explains that the UN observer mission in Syria has been suspended due to an escalation of violence, a lack of peaceful options for resolving the conflict, and the warring parties’ determination to strengthen their respective military positions. Would you agree these were the main reasons for suspending the mission, or was there a different, perhaps hidden rationale behind this decision?

Faisal Al-Mikdad: First of all, when Syria entrusted the observers with capabilities and special privileges that were unprecedented for such UN missions, we were confident that this would help the observers carry out their mission and therefore contribute to the implementation of the Kofi Annan plan.

Secondly, there was never a time in the past two months when we would deny the observers access whenever they wanted to visit and inspect any area in Syria, except for places the insurgents prevented them from visiting. Now let me give you a short and straightforward answer: we have identified three or four principles for interacting with the UN mission.

First, we agree to the Kofi Annan plan.

No matter what they say, I am convinced that we have delivered a lot on the six-point peace plan. We do not agree, and will not agree with many of the statements in this regard, especially those voiced by parties that are known for their hostility toward the Kofi Annan plan.

Secondly, like I said, we did co-operate with the UN observer mission and provided it with every possible privilege.

Thirdly, we ensured the observers’ personal security throughout their stay and in all of their movements around the country. This is exactly what has enabled us to deliver on the peace plan in many aspects.

Number four, we did not prevent the observers from moving around Syria and going any place they wanted. We are convinced, and this is the opinion of the Syrian government, that the only feasible solution for the crisis we are facing is political dialogue. Supplying the insurgents with any type of lethal weapons, including communication equipment, does nothing but impede a peaceful settlement and result in more bloodshed in Syria.

RT: Russia and the United States have expressed their reciprocal concerns regarding arms shipments to Syria. Russia is arguing that it is supplying Damascus with what it describes as “exclusively defensive weapons” in accordance with the existing bilateral contracts. In turn, Moscow has accused the US of arming the Syrian opposition.

FA: I would like to point you to the practically unlimited military aid that the US has been providing to Israel, which includes sophisticated hardware and even weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

As a nation currently under attack, Syria has the right to procure weapons that it can use to protect itself, its sovereignty and its people. As for the countries that have been supplying terrorists with weapons, this is a proven fact that we have brought up time and again. We are requesting Mr. Kofi Annan and those who support his plan to urge these governments to stop providing material and financial aid to the insurgents and supplying them with state-of-the-art weapons and communication equipment. The United States and France and some of the Gulf nations have been providing the militants with all that, which in turn contributes to escalating violence in Syria. If they were to stop such military aid, the Syrians would be able to sit down at the negotiating table the very next day, and launch a genuine dialogue for nationwide reconciliation. In other words, it would help consolidate the Syrian people and resolve the dangerous situation that is threatening our region and the world in general.

RT: It has been argued recently that the military in Syria should take it from here and ensure genuine security for the public. Is there really a split in opinion between the military and the policy makers in Syria over how to solve the crisis?

FA: I think that people who say such things are simply ignorant about what is really going on in Syria. I believe this conflict can be resolved with peaceful means. It is obvious that the so-called “opposition” and the armed terrorist groups and their sponsors are no match for the Syrian armed forces. Then why doesn’t the Syrian army just wipe them out, one may ask. First of all, they are concerned about the possible civilian casualties and devastation this might entail, including the possible destruction of privately-owned homes and public facilities. Such methods were once in use, but that was a long time ago. I believe that the entire Syrian public should put an end to the hostilities, with every faction of society brought to the table regardless of their various interests and aspirations. The so-called opposition should sit down and negotiate, because more bloodshed will only result in their own homes and families being affected by violence, making reconciliation ever more difficult.

RT: The international community has repeatedly addressed the Syrian government as the most influential stakeholder in Syria who is capable of resolving the conflict. What has the government undertaken recently to find a way out of the crisis?

FA: Whether some people like it or not, we are indeed strong in the face of such challenges. And we have conveyed this to international officials and anybody who approached us. We are strong, because we work in the thick of the action, and we have genuine power. We lose our troops every day to terrorist attacks, and we lose civilians, who are killed by militants for no reason, simply because an insurgent is instructed to kill a certain number of people in a specific area. When armed rebels intimidate shop owners into shutting down their stores, this is presented as anti-government protests, whereas it is really submission by business owners who are afraid of their property getting burnt down if they disobey. There are no real protests. The people of Syria are still confident that the government will help them out, and that the reforms launched by the government will help resolve the conflict and ensure security and solidarity in Syria, as well as the entire Middle East. As soon as the armed opposition stops spilling blood and killing civilians, peace and security will be restored in Syria. This will pave the way for nationwide dialogue, enabling the government to implement its intended reforms that will provide peace and stability for Syria.

RT: Russia has recently called for a meeting that would include every possible stakeholder, including all the neighboring countries and other Middle East nations – even those who support the Syrian opposition, as long as they are committed to providing a peaceful solution for Syria. Do you think the opposition will embrace such an initiative? Would such a meeting be successful?

FA: We believe that the Russian initiative is a constructive one. We know that Russia’s attitude toward Syria is based on three fundamental principles: respect for the UN Charter, respect for human rights, and respect for the principle of national sovereignty, as opposed to the colonialist mindset maintained by the United States and its allies, such as France, the UK and a number of other EU member-states. This also refers to some of the Arab countries, who act as minions of America and the West and blindly follow their orders with regard to Syria. I believe that Russia’s initiative is in the best interests of Syria, and such a meeting should be helpful in accomplishing what Russia sees as the purpose of such dialogue. Such a meeting should involve every stakeholder, no matter if they side with us or not. But there must be one commitment that every party must stick to, namely that there shall be no attempts at subverting or undoing the Kofi Annan plan. All in all, I am very confident and optimistic about the future of Syria.