The regime of President Bashar Assad has shown no signs of giving in even as opposition fighters have advanced to the outskirts of Damascus. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad blames the West for the violence and says Assad has satisfied all opposition demands.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Minister, you have just come back from visits to Iran and Russia. Has the Russian government offered Syrian President Bashar Assad asylum in Moscow?
Mekdad: Why should they? The subject was never addressed. We will prevail. The exile question is just an element of psychological warfare. President Assad has said that was born here and he will die here, whenever that might be.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even your ally, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, remarked recently that the Syrian government is losing control over more and more territory. What is still giving you hope?
Mekdad: We are optimists and strong enough to overcome this challenge, even against the attack of an alliance of Western countries and Gulf states which claims to promoting democracy and freedom. Until four months ago, Aleppo was one of the safest cities in the world. So I congratulate the advocates for human rights and democracy on the destruction of the Umayyad Mosque, the historic souks and the old town of Aleppo. On the other hand, we value the Russian position.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Russia is also pursuing its own interests. Tartus is the only Russian port on the Mediterranean, 50,000 Russians live in Syria and the arms trade between the two countries is significant. A good deal of the destruction can be attributed to the regime itself.
Mekdad: I can only warn the Europeans not to go on supporting these groups. These people are not just fighting against Syria, but against the order of all civilized nations, including your country in the future.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Syrian government believes in an international conspiracy. How would the Western states and their allies benefit from the fall of Assad’s regime?
Mekdad: Israel and the US would be the winners. Were Syria divided and placed under international control, the Israeli-Arab conflict would be forgotten. Israel could live in peace and keep the Golan Heights and all of Jerusalem and continue to bully the Palestinians. We are the only one of Israel’s neighbors that still represents the Arab position.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: This revolution was originally a popular uprising against an oppressive state. Many people have reported that they were arrested for demonstrating peacefully and nearly killed in regime torture chambers.
Mekdad: Why don’t you ask other Syrians for their views? These people do not represent the majority. It is striking that the president has responded to the demands of the demonstrators. There’s a new constitution, the supremacy of the Baath Party has been ended, parties may be established, elections for a new parliament were carried out, new laws concerning demonstrations were passed. All that is completely ignored, none of it recognized abroad. On the contrary, it was after Assad changed the laws that the escalation really began. What more do these so-called revolutionaries actually want?