In 20-30 years the Arab world will be speaking up for itself with Syria the first, Shaaban believes. Shaaban is certain the government has a lot of control over the country, though independent armed gangs appear here and there. She also says the BRICS countries could be proactive and form an international stand to stop violence in Syria.
RT: Let’s start with the latest news. Do you know what’s happening to the four Italian journalists that were detained in the north of Syria?
Bouthaina Shaaban: I have no idea, because as you know nowadays there are so many contradicting reports about Syria so it’s very difficult sift the truth from concept. I really have no clue to what’s happening there.
RT: The journalists were captured in Syria’s north near the Turkish border. Does the Syrian government have control over this territory or it’s the Free Syrian Army and the Turks, who are the only authorities there?
BS: It’s very difficult to speak about control of a certain area in the north because what the armed gangs do is attack certain points and try to kidnap, but it doesn’t mean they control a certain point. You know, they just make swift acts here and there and that’s how they function. But they don’t control the area. The media has a life of its own speaking about which part of the country they control and what they are doing only in order to serve the political agenda that has an interest in augmenting the Syrian crisis anyway.
RT: So the government forces still have some control over the north of the country, right?
BS: Absolutely. No only some control but a lot of control over the north, the south, the west, the east and the middle of the country. Definitely.
RT: President Assad has appealed to the BRICS countries to intervene and stop the crisis in Syria. What more can BRICS countries do other than Russia and China to help this conflict? Is there anything else to do?
BS: I think the BRICS countries can make a very firm international stand for stopping violence in Syria – something like what President Putin said on Tuesday in Germany, that violence has to be stopped by all sides and then they have to get round the table and the Syrian people should themselves decide their future. We can’t deny now that the Syrian crisis has the regional and the international level. Unless these two levels are sorted out and unless there is a real intention to stop the crisis by these two levels it’s very difficult stop it inside Syria because this crisis is fed and financed by both regional and international forces.
RT: Speaking of President Putin, he recently suggested that all shipments of arms to Syria should be stopped but that includes shipments to your side as well. Is that a viable option for you?
BS: Yes, but he also said there is nothing that prevents countries from arming themselves. There is a big difference between arming armed gangs with no identity, no international entity and arming a country. You should ask President Putin what he means by that – should we stop shipments to everyone, or just to those who shouldn’t be armed in the first place.
RT: From what’s been understood from the statement, maybe it’s an option to spot supplying both sides.
BS: The problem that we’ve been facing from the beginning of the crisis is that we have two sides. We have Russia and China as part of BRICS on the one side, and the West and unfortunately some Arab countries on the other side. The western side doesn’t really live up to what it says. If you take for example the testimony of American Ambassador Robert Ford is Congress on March 23 you will see that what is being said is absolutely detached from the truth. All these terrorist attacks that are happening in Syria, or the killings, the kidnappings, the problems Syrian children and women are facing in horrible humiliating conditions in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan – all these is regarded by them as non-lethal because they don’t think of human integrity and dignity. For us it’s more lethal than any lethal weapon. So if there is an international will to stop armaments to each side at this moment that probably could be discussed. But the problem is that they say they support the Geneva agreements, but the first item in the Geneva communiqué is to stop violence by all sides. But they have been feeding violence in Syria for the last two years and unfortunately it’s Syria and its people, who are paying the price for that. And they take a pretext speaking about the president or the government, but the issue in Syria is neither about the president, nor about the government – it’s about the Syrian people and Syria with its civilized human historical political entity.
RT: Earlier there were big hopes for negotiations, there were reports of lists of people drawn to these talks, venues were being chosen, even Moscow was named among the possible options. What happened to these talks?
BS: I think everybody in the world should ask this question. The Syrian government says that we want to start talks right not, that dialogue is the only option and political solution is the only solution. President Assad came up on January 6 saying that we support the Geneva communiqué and that we want to start dialogue right now. But this is the so-called opposition and all those parties that I named earlier in this interview that refuse to sit around the table and make preconditions that objective of which is to make the crisis continue in Syria and continue the suffering of the Syrian people. Everyone who cares about the Syrian people, who cares about Syria should support political solution, should support the Geneva agreements not only in words but by inviting everyone to sit around the table and find a political solution to the crisis.
RT: Do you sense any change in the US position on the conflict with John Kerry leading American foreign policy now?
BS: We certainly hope so. We have been hearing sometimes different statements, sometimes contradictory statements coming from Washington. On the one hand they say they support the Geneva agreements, on the other hand Robert Ford says they support establishing court ruling in some areas. But if you look, you would see that these court councils are the ones that kidnap, kill, apply what they call Sharia law, but it has nothing to do with Islam. We hope that Secretary Kerry will truly support the political solution in Syria, the Geneva agreements, the immediate stop of violence because the Syrian people have had enough of that. If he does that I’m sure Russia, China and other BRICS countries as well as the Syrian government will welcome that.
RT: The possible use of chemical weapons has been another topic recently. You’ve accused the rebels of using them and called for a UN investigation but now that the mission is ready to go you are saying that the UN wants to expand the investigation. Are you really in a position to bargain? Can you afford to prolong uncertainty?
BS: I would like to remind that it was the Syrian government that asked the UN to come and investigate the use of chemical weapons by the armed gangs. After a lot of correspondence and instead of sending a commission to investigate this incident they started to talk about other similar incidents. The stand of the Syrian government is that we want the UN to investigate this particular incident in Aleppo, we are ready to look at any evidence offered to the Syrian government regarding any other incident that they claim happened in Syria. But the UN is the one that didn’t fulfill its promise to send people to investigate this particular incident. If the UN is reluctant to do so we go even further – we are ready to receive people from neutral countries like Russia and China to investigate this particular incident. Any other incident needs to be brought to the attention of the Syrian people and we need to look at the evidence before saying Yes or No.
RT: President Assad keeps pointing fingers to Turkey, Israel, Jordan, the Arab League for making the situation in Syria worse. Do you have any other cards left to play?
BS: We have the cards of Syria and the Syrian people. It’s the Syrian people who are standing against terrorism, car bombs and car explosions, regional and foreign interference. At the end it’s the Syrian people who are going to make the future of Syria regardless of all the designs that others might have against Syria and its people.
RT: You’ve mentioned the Arab stated who are creating chaos in Syria. Why would they be interested in that?
BS: I think it’s against their interests in the long run and I don’t think that those who have been creating chaos in Syria right from the very beginning have a totally independent will. Unfortunately they are carrying out a design, a big design for the region. If you read what is happening in Libya, Oman, Sudan, Iraq, Syria you would know that there is a huge design for this region. But they are ignoring the fact that it’s people who make the future of their countries, and personally I feel that what we are witnessing in the Middle East is absolutely the threshold of real independence of Arab countries. In 20-30 years you will find the Arab world speaking up for itself. And I hope Syria is going to be the first country to usher in this new dawn for the Arab world.
RT: Do you think this design also concerns Iran?
BS: First of all, it’s about the Arab-Israeli conflict, about Palestine and the occupied territories, and then in order to fulfill this design you have to bring Syria, and Hezbollah, and Iran into the picture. It’s about the entire region, it’s about Palestine, it’s about the legitimate rights of the Arab people in their own lands and in their own countries. You can see that this new visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Turkey and to Palestine is speaking about the historical deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I think the Arab-Israeli conflict is at the core of all what is happening in the Arab world and Iran as well.