syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an exclusive interview with theTurkish daily Hurriyet revealed his thoughts on various topics, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel's occupation, Iran and Syrian and Turkish relations.
On the issue of the return of the Muslim Brotherhood members and the Kurdistan Workers' Party who fled from the army's brutal massacre, he confirmed that they may return to Syria and will be spared from standing trial. "On the agenda is a policy that will prevent these people from being recognized as individuals who should be tried in the courts,” he said.
“They came to Syria without amnesty,” he continued “We allowed them to return. This is an issue belonging to past. They do not need to go to court to be found guilty or not. We understand that these people left Syria to participate in different groups in other countries. However we are against this politically.”
When questioned about the situation from Israel’s perspective – as a small country squeezed in between Arab states – and whether a just solution for Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis is possible, he said: “The source of the problem is the Israeli invasion of others’ land. If there is an invasion, people react. Therefore, the thing to do is to withdraw from the occupied land and sign a peace treaty. Only peace can protect the Israelis. If they believe they are defenseless, it is not war, but peace that can protect them. The experiences in Lebanon and Gaza showed them that they cannot reach a conclusion by military means moreover, these means will drag them to failure.”
With regards to Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, al-Assad said "Syria’s position is clear we do not want to see nuclear weapons in the Middle East.” He said there is no need for nuclear weapons in the region and that, naturally, Israeli nuclear weapons are included in this statement. But al-Assad does not believe that Iran is producing nuclear weapons. “They do not need these weapons. They only want the technology, which is their right.”
Turkey’s relations with the European Union, was also discussed where al-Assad stressed that he supported Turkey’s relations with the EU since he believed that isolating Turkey to the Muslim world alone would not be beneficial for the Muslims.
He also encouraged Turkey's relations with the United States, even though his country does not enjoy strong relations with Washington, believing that Turkey can help bridge diplomatic gaps for Syria as a friendly neighbor. When asked whether Turkey helps Syria concerning the United States, al-Assad said "Turkey is a country that pays attention to the reality in Syria which undoubtedly will benefit Syria because it gives the impression that other countries should recognize Syria as well".
On a personal level he stressed Turkey and Syria are neighbors, addressing what Turkey meant to Syria, both now and in the past." It takes more than a couple of years to see relations improve. There is a solid base at the grassroots level in both countries. If you look at the reaction of the Turkish people against certain incidents, in particular what has happened in Gaza, you see that the feelings of both sides are the same. There is rage against what the Arab people experienced,” he said.
The president said that he, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, President Abdullah Gül and former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer have had an active role in improving relations. But grass-roots support played an important role, he said.
In addition, Sezer attended the funeral of President Hafez al-Assad in 2000, establishing contact that remained active. Also, while serving as prime minister, Gül visited Syria, inviting al-Assad for a return visit.