Reporter: We've been to Aleppo, we've seen
the destruction…how do you see the way forward for peace
nowadays after Astana?
President Assad: If we want to talk about how to see the peace
- it is not related mainly to Astana, it is something much bigger:
how can we stop the flowing of the terrorists towards Syria or
how can we stop the support from regional countries
like Turkey, Gulf states, or from Europe like France and UK, or
from the US during the Obama administration?
If we deal with
that title, this is where we can talk about the rest, about the
Astana is one of the initiative(s) during
this war on Syria, and it's about the dialogue between the
Now it's too early to judge Astana.
The first one was positive
because it was about the principles of the unity of Syria, about
the Syrians deciding their future, how can you implement this
communiqué? That's the question.
And I think we are going to see
an Astana 2 and so on. So the peace is two things: fighting
terrorists and terrorism, stopping the flowing of terrorists and
every kind of logistical support, and second, dialogue between
the Syrians to decide the future of their country and the whole
These are the headlines about how to see the
future of Syria.
Reporter: We have seen many
breaches in the ceasefire. Would you consider the ceasefire
still upholding or is it dead?
President Assad: No it's not dead, it is…and it's natural in
every ceasefire anywhere in the world, in every war in any
conflict to have these breaches.
It could be sometimes on an
individual level, it doesn't mean there's (a) policy of
breaching of (the) ceasefire by government or any other party,
and this is something we can deal with on a daily basis, and
sometimes on an hourly basis, but till this moment, the
ceasefire is holding.
Reporter: In the fight against
(the) terror group Daesh, do you think all means are justified?
President Assad: It depends on what do we mean by all means, we
have to be…
Reporter: Literally all means…
President Assad: Yeah but I don't know what the means that are
available to tell you yes, all means, so I don't know what all
means, but if you want to talk about military means, yes of
course, because the terrorists are attacking the people.
only talking about ISIS. ISIS and al-Nusra and all the al-Qaeda
affiliated groups within Syria.
When they attack Syrians and
killing civilians, and beheading people and destroying
properties - private and public - and destroying the
infrastructure, everything in this country… our constitutional
duty and legal duty as (a) government and as (an) army and as
state institutions is to defend the Syrian people.
It is not an
opinion, it's a duty. So regarding this, you can use every mean
in order to defend the Syrian people.
Reporter: But we have seen the
destruction in Aleppo - you have seen the images as well. Was
there no other way to do it than in such a… or (sic) way?
President Assad: Actually since the beginning of the crisis or
the war on Syria we used every possible way.
We didn't leave any
stone unturned in order to bring people to the negotiating
table. But when you talk about the terrorists… when you talk
about terrorists, when you talk about al-Qaeda, when you talk
about al-Nusra and ISIS, I don't think anyone in this world
would believe that they are ready for dialogue, and they always
say they're not.
They have their own ideology, they have their
own way-path. They don't accept anything (that) could be related
to (a) civil state or civil country.
They don't. And I think you
know as (a) European about this reality.
So no, making dialogue
with al-Nusra & al-Qaeda is not one of the means, but, if
somebody wants to change his course on the individual levels, we
are ready to accept him as a government and give him amnesty
when he goes back to the normal life and give up his armament.
Reporter: The Belgian
government is contributing in the fight against Daesh. There are
six F-16 fighter planes in the fight against Daesh. Are you
grateful to the Belgian government for that contribution?
President Assad: Let me be frank with you: when you talk about
contribution in the operation against ISIS - actually there was
no operation against ISIS.
It was (a) cosmetic operation. If you
want to talk about (the) American alliance against ISIS, it was
only an elusive alliance, because ISIS was expanding during that
At the same time that operation is (an) illegal
operation, because it happened without consulting with or taking
the permission of the Syrian government, which is a legitimate
government. And it's a breaching of our sovereignty.
didn't prevent any Syrian citizen from being killed by ISIS.
what are we grateful for? To be frank: no.
Reporter: You have stated several
times that it is up to the Syrian people, it is up to the
constitution to decide who their leadership should be, who their
president should be. If the Syrian people would decide for a new
leadership, would you consider to step aside?
President Assad: If the Syrian people choose another president,
I don't have to choose to be aside, I will be aside, I will be
outside this position, that's self-evident, because the
constitution would put (a) president, and the constitution would
take him out according to the ballot box and the decision of the
Of course that's very natural. Not only because of
the ballot box, because if you don't have public support, you
cannot achieve anything in Syria, especially in a war.
In a war
what you need - the most important thing - is to have public
support in order to restore your country, to restore the
stability and security.
Without it you cannot achieve anything.
So yes of course.
Reporter: Mr President, I am 43
years old, if I would have been born in Syria, there would
always have been an Assad in executive power. Can you imagine a
Syria without a member of the Assad family in executive power?
President Assad: Of course, we don't own the country. My family
doesn't own the country to say that only Assad should be in that
position. That's self-evident.
And this could be by coincidence,
because President (Hafez) Assad didn't have a heir in the
institution to be a successor. He died, I was elected - he
didn't have anything to do with my election when he was
I didn't have any position in the government. If he
wanted me to be a heir, he would have put me somewhere, given me
a responsibility. I didn't have any responsibility actually.
it's not as many in the media in the West use to say since my
election that he was succeeded by his father or his father put
him in that position.
So yes Syria (is) owned by the Syrians,
and every Syrian citizen has the right to be in that position.
Reporter: Do you think the European
Union or even NATO can play a role in like rebuilding the
country, in rebuilding Syria?
President Assad: You cannot play that role while you are
destroying Syria because the EU is supporting the terrorists in
Syria from the very beginning under different titles:
'humanitarian', 'moderate', and so on...
Actually they were
supporting al-Nusra and ISIS from the very beginning, they were
extremists from the very beginning.
So they cannot destroy and
build at the same time.
First of all they have to take (a) very clear position regarding
the sovereignty of Syria, stopping supporting the terrorists,
this is where the Syrian would - I say would - accept those
countries to play a role in that regard.
But in the meantime if
you ask any Syrian the same question they would say they don't
accept those countries that supported the people who destroyed
our country, we don't want them to be here.
That's what I think.
Reporter: Do you think Belgian can
play a role in Syria?
President Assad: Let me talk about the European political
position in general.
Many in this region believe that the
European do not exist politically. They only follow their master
the American. So the question should be about the American, and
the European will follow and will implement what the American
They don't exist as (an) independent state, and Belgium is
part of the EU.
Reporter: There is a new
administration in Washington with Trump in power. What do you
expect from it? Are you looking to work closely together?
President Assad: What we heard… a statement by Trump during the
campaign and after the campaign is promising regarding the
priority of fighting the terrorists, and mainly ISIS.
what we've been asking for during the last six years.
So I think
this is promising. We have to wait - it is still early to expect
anything practical, it could be about the cooperation between
the US and Russia that we think is going to be positive for the
rest of the world including Syria.
So as I said it is still
early to judge it.
Reporter: If you look back on the
last couple of years, are there any things that you regret?
President Assad: Every mistake could be a regret by any
Reporter: Have you made mistakes?
President Assad: As a human… I have to make mistakes to be human,
otherwise I'm not a human.
Reporter: What would you consider a
President Assad: A mistake (is) when you either take a wrong
decision, or make wrong practice. It depends on the situation.
But if you want to talk about the crisis as I understand from
your question, the three decisions that we take from the very
to fight terrorism, and I think it's correct
make dialogue between Syrians - I think it's correct
to every political initiative, whether it's genuine or not, and
I think it's correct
Actually we supported the
reconciliation between the Syrians, and I think it's correct.
Anything else could be trivial
- you have a lot of things
regarding the practice, regarding the institutions, you always
Reporter: If you look back do you
think this war was avoidable?
President Assad: No, because there was bad intention regarding
the different countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey,
France, UK, and the US, in order to destabilize Syria.
wasn't about the Syrians.
That doesn't mean that we don't have
many flaws before the war and today, as a country that allow
many of those countries to mess with our country.
excluding - I'm not saying it's only about them, but they were
the ones who took the initiative in order to run this war, so I
don't think it was avoidable.
Reporter: You have just had a visit
from a Belgian parliamentary delegation with Mr Dewinter and Mr
Carcaci, do you consider them as friends?
President Assad: The most important (thing) about those visit is
not to be friends. As a politician you don't come to Syria to
visit your friend, you come to Syria to see what's going on.
Reporter: Do you see them as
President Assad: No because… no, they are not my allies at
all - they are coming here not for that reason.
They are here in
order to see what's going on. They are the allies of the Belgian
people. They came here because the government, the Belgian
government, like many European governments, are blind today,
they have no relation with this country on every level, so they
don't see what's going on, they cannot play any role.
So now the
only eye that you have are the delegations that's coming from
your country, and this is one of them, this is one of the eyes
that your government could have, and you could have many other
eyes and delegations coming to Syria.
So they're not my allies,
they're not coming here for me, they're coming here to see the
situation, and I'm one of the players in the Syrian conflict.
It's natural to meet with me to hear what's my point of view.