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Syrian president says he trusts Russia and its foreign policy

Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah movement are Syria’s key allies in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, Bashar Assad said

MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. The current situation is similar to the Cold War in its development stage, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper published on Friday.

"Today we observe a situation similar to the Cold War in its development stage. This is something that emerged rather recently as I think the West and especially the United States did not stop the Cold War even after the collapse of the Soviet Union," Assad said.

There are many political scenes in this process and Syria is one of the most important ones, he said. "We see the escalation of the conflict but the main goal (of the US) is to keep the US hegemony over the world and not to allow anyone to be a partner on the political or international arena, neither Russia nor its allies in the West."

"That’s why the smell of war, which you have described as the Third World War, is felt in the air but this is not a direct military face-off yet, although it has a military, terrorist and political component. That’s why you are right as you feel that Syria is only part of this war," the president said.

Syria’s independence won’t satisfy West

The West will never accept Syria’s independence, the country’s President Bashar Assad believes:

"Syria is an independent country, and the West will never put up with the independence of any country, no matter if this is small Syria or great Russia."

"What is their problem with Russia? That’s because it defends its right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The West wants to always have ‘yes.’"

Syria has the same problem with the West, he added.

Syria’s key allies

Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah movement are Syria’s key allies in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, the Syrian president said.

"Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are our permanent allies and they are here on a legal basis. They fight against terrorists but there are other countries that intervene with the goal of supporting terrorists," Assad said.

"The main question now is not the number of participants of the Syrian conflict but the source of everyday support for terrorists," he added.

Hezbollah is a Shia Islamist movement in Lebanon. It is based in some areas of Beirut, Beqaa and in the country’s south.

'We trust Russia and its policy'

The Syrian leadership has confidence in Russia and its policy, Assad assured.

"We trust Russia and its policy. The Russian policy is based on the morals, and not only on the interests. We know that they support us in order to eliminate terrorism and not because they want to ask something in exchange. So far they have not asked us for anything. These factors pushed me and the Syrian government to ask Russia for help," Assad said.

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started pinpointing strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist organizations banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian president. Russia’s aviation helped the Syrian troops to liberate about 400 settlements and inflict serious damage to the illegal oil trade which is the main source of income for terrorists. All major supply routes for weapons and ammunition were blocked.

In mid-March 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to start withdrawing the main part of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ group from Syria. Putin said the tasks set before the military had been "fulfilled on the whole." Two Russian military facilities - at the Hmeymim aerodrome and in Tartus - are still in operation in Syria. The Russian military continues taking an active part in fighting against terrorist groups.

Saudi Arabia always wanted Syria to "convince Iran to give up its interests"

Authorities of Saudi Arabia suggested that Syria should sever its ties with Iran in exchange for assistance to the Syrian government, President Bashar Assad said.

"If we extended away from Iran and announced a rift of any relations with Iran they said that they would help me. Very simply and directly," Assad told the paper.

He noted that Saudi Arabia’s authorities "hate Iran" and have always wanted Syria to "convince Iran to give up its interests."

"If we talk about a regional conflict, then Syria has good relations with Iran, and Saudi Arabia wants to completely destroy Iran in every sense and due to different reasons. That’s why they want Syria to turn its back on Iran," Assad said.

Kurdish issue

The issue of granting autonomy to the Syrian Kurds may be solved only at a natinwide referendum, Syrian President Bashar Assad said:

"If we speak about federalism or any other system, this should be part of the constitution. And the constitution reflects the will of the Syrian people. That’s why if they need a special political system in Syria they should convince the Syrians themselves of this. A nationwide referendum is needed that will say ‘yes’ or ‘no'." 

Not all the Kurds in Syria demand autonomy or independence, he said. "First, we cannot speak to only one part of the Kurds, without taking into account all the local Kurds… Most Kurds do not ask for autonomy. Only some of them do," Assad said.

In January 2014, the Syrian Kurds announced the creation of an autonomous region in the country’s north called Rojava ("West"), also known as Western Kurdistan. The region does not have territorial integrity - its three cantons (Afrin, Jazira and Kobani) are not linked with each other. This March, the Syrian Kurds declared the creation of a regional administration in northern Syria. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said this contradicts the country’s constitution.