MOSCOW, March 20. /TASS/. Syria’s authorities are ready to discuss the country’s new constitution but want to know who will take part in the Geneva talks, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian journalists on Monday.
"We are ready to discuss anything including the constitution, but we need to see who's going to be in Geneva, are they going to discuss the same paper or not?" he said. "But for us, as a government, our position is very clear: that we are ready to discuss it in details, but we support the headline, of course."
"Yesterday, I think, our representative in the United Nations, Mr. Jaafari, announced that we support the Russian initiatives - different initiatives, not only this one - as headlines, and now we are discussing with the Russians the details, he said. "The problem is that we went to Astana recently, as you know, the other delegation, the delegation of the militants, didn't join that meeting, they didn't go to Astana, and we all believe that this is the negative influence of the Turks. So, how can we start something concrete if you don't have a partner?"
On military operations
Assad stressed that any military operation in Syria without the approval of Damascus is illegal.
"Any military operation in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government is illegal, and I said if there's any troops on the Syrian soil, this is an invasion, whether to liberate al-Raqqa or any other place," the Syrian president said.
"We all know that the coalition has never been serious about fighting ISIS or the terrorists, so we have to think about the real intention of the whole plan, if there's a plan to liberate al-Raqqa. To liberate it from who? From ISIS? To give it to who? So, their plan is not to fight terrorists, not to help the Syrian government, it's not for the unity of Syria, it's not for the sovereignty of Syria, it must be something else not of these factors that I just mentioned, but all that we have till this moment are only information, we don't have any fact on the ground regarding this."
The level of military support for the country from Russia is "good and effective" and can be increased if necessary, he added.
"Actually, if you talk about the relation between the Syrian government and the Russian government, it goes back in history for decades, so they know the details of Syria, and after the war they know more details about what's happening. So, if we want to talk about fighting terrorism, we discussed in details the requirements to support the Syrian Army," he said.
"For this stage, the Russian support by air raids was enough for the Syrian Army to advance on different fronts, mainly in Aleppo and Palmyra as you know," the president said. "I'm sure that if the Syrian and the Russian officials and military officials feel that we need more support to defeat the terrorists, they're going to do it, but till this moment, the level of support is good and effective."
On Palmyra heritage
The president said Palmyra's heritage is "not only Syrian heritage; it's international heritage, and I think the whole world should be worried about the destruction of Palmyra. Of course, some of the destruction could be repaired. Now we are evaluating, because you know if the stones turn into rubble, it could be difficult for anyone to restore this heritage, but if you have the stone safe and sound, you can do it."
"When we liberated Palmyra the first time, President Putin himself, when he spoke to me and congratulated me for the liberation of Palmyra last year, he said Russia was very interested in the restoration of Palmyra," he said. "Of course, as you know, ISIS came again to Palmyra, and it was liberated again, but now there's more destruction, so we have to re-evaluate Palmyra again to see what we can do, but I think it's not only about Syria and Russia; it's about the UNESCO, it's about the other institutions, and it's about other countries that they always claim that they are worried about the human heritage and human culture and so on."
'Defending our borders is our right'
The Syrian president went on to say that "defending our borders is our right, and it's our duty, not only our right. If we don't do it as officials when we can do it, we should be blamed by the Syrian people, we should be held accountable. So, we don't have to ask ourselves that question, whether there were statements by Israeli officials or not. We don't base our policy and decisions on their statements. So, of course, it's our right and duty, again."
"As we heard this morning, that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the Israeli ambassador, they invited him to the Ministry in order to discuss the Israeli violation of the Syrian sovereignty," he said. "So, I think Russia can play an important role in that regard, and the whole policy of Russia is based on the international law, it's based on the Charter of the United Nations, and the Security Council resolutions. So, they can discuss the same issues with the Israelis depending on this criteria, and they can play a role in order that Israel not attack Syria again in the future."
On airstrike by the United States-led coalition
Assad said that "the American policy is based on many standards, not double; they have maybe ten standards because they don't base their policy on values or on international law; they base it on their own vision, their own interests, sometimes on the balance of different lobbies and powers within the American institutions. We all know that."
"So, we don't talk about double standards, this is very normal for the US," he said. "For example, their raids against ISIS in Mosul in Iraq were something good, or let's say, positive, while the same raid by the Syrian and Russian army airplanes or troops on the ground in Aleppo to liberate the people of Aleppo is against human rights according to their political discourse. So, this is natural for the American policy and for the West in general, not only the Americans. White Helmets are Al Qaeda, they're Al Qaeda members and that's proven on the net; the same members are killing or executing or celebrating over dead bodies, at the same time they are humanitarian heroes, and now they have an Oscar as you know."
"So, that's to be expected by the Americans, we have to ignore all their narratives, their own public doesn't believe their narrative anymore. They don't know the truth yet; the public opinion in the West in general, they know there's a lie, but they don't know what the truth is, and that's why they have a problem with RT for example, for that reason," he concluded.