Syrian President Bashar Assad essentially dismissed attempts by the United States and Russia to bring the civil war in the country to a political solution.
“Believing that a political conference will stop terrorism on the ground is unreal,” Assad said in an exclusive interview with the Argentine newspaper El Clarin. Assad also took the usual stance on a wide range of issues.
“Mr. Assad took a hard line throughout the interview, according to a transcript in English provided to The New York Times. He declared that he would run for election as scheduled in 2014 and would accept election monitors only from friendly countries like Russia and China.
“He also accused Israel of directly aiding rebels by providing intelligence on sites to attack, refused to acknowledge any mistakes in his handling of the two-year-old crisis, and disputed United Nations estimates that more than 80,000 people had died in the conflict.”
According to El Clarin, Assad spoke from the presidential palace in Damascus. In the distance, the paper reports, you could hear sporadic artillery fire.
During the interview, Assad appeared to hint that he was open to dialogue. He said that when the revolution started, he instituted reforms, but all the rebels have done is resort to “terrorism.” He also said that the opposition is controlled by foreign forces and there are too many different groups to actually negotiate with.
“They are different groups and bands, not dozens but hundreds,” Assad said, according to a translation by The Guardian. “They are a mixture and each group has its local leader. And who can unify thousands of people? We can’t discuss a timetable with a party if we don’t know who they are.”
According to El Clarin‘s translation, Assad also said that his country would not negotiate with “terrorists.”
“We have an initiative that includes dialogue,” he said. “But as far as terrorists are concerned, no one has to talk with terrorists. Terrorists hit the U.S. and Europe, yet no one negotiated with terrorists. One talks with political forces, but not a terrorist who kills and uses chemical weapons.”
Assad would not say if he had any regrets and he also made it clear that he was not resigning.
“The captain of a ship doesn’t flee when faced with a storm,” he said. “I’m not a person who runs from responsibility.”
The Guardian translated the video posted on Clarin’s website: