Syria Foreign Minister Moallem will bring a Resolution against Terrorism to Friday talks
January 23, 2014 • 5:39PM

In an exclusive interview with the US website al-Monitor after the Montreux talks Jan 22, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said he would deal with the Syrian opposition coalition "based on their acceptance of issuing a resolution countering terrorism." He said this "will pave the way for a political solution, because it will narrow the gap.

He had earlier said that any Geneva agreement would have to be put before the Syrian people in a referendum.

"First of all, we will go on Friday to start the Syrian dialogue, bearing in mind that what we will see, the coalition, in fact, they are not the real representatives of the Syrian people. They are a bunch of people that have lived abroad, [that] through the American, the Qatari, the Turkish and the Saudi help, composed the coalition. This coalition is divided because some members refused to come to Geneva, some members wanted to be represented in Geneva.
"On the ground, all of the armed groups issued a statement that this coalition is not representing them and they stand against the Geneva meeting. The national opposition parties in Syria issued statements that said the so-called coalition is not representing them. This fact will affect the course of the dialogue, because as a government we want to see most of the opposition parties, and some NGOs, to be represented in the dialogue. In this way, we can have deep dialogue about the future."

Al-Monitor: But you are prepared to have these conversations with the representatives of the coalition who are coming Friday?

Moallem: Based on their acceptance of issuing a resolution countering terrorism.

Al-Monitor: Last week in Moscow you proposed a cease-fire in Aleppo.

Moallem: Not cease-fire, but military security arrangements.

Al-Monitor: And you presented plans for prisoner exchange and humanitarian relief. How much priority will you be giving these, what some have called confidence-building measures, in your upcoming talks?

Moallem: It is very important because the gap of confidence is huge. We want to see how much this opposition is related to the armed group in Aleppo, for example.

Al-Monitor: Let me ask about the armed groups. You, today in your speech, accused some of the regional powers as being behind some of these armed Islamic terrorist groups in Syria, and as I understand it there are two major factions fighting in areas not controlled by the government: the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra, or the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups on the one hand, and then there is the Islamic Front, which is affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and the coalition, according to reports. How do you assess the state of play on the battlefield and who is behind these groups?

Moallem: I know well that the Islamic Front is composed by Saudi Arabia. Jabhat al-Nusra is supported by Qatar. ISIS, which is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, belongs to al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri."

Al-Monitor asked Moallem about his accusation that some in the room in Montreux had blood on their hands, and his singling out of Turkey, and how he thought his terrorism agenda would be taken into account in the next stages of the Geneva process.

Moallem: Very good question. I am sure that it was not well received from Turkey, based on the speech of their foreign minister, but the question is how these groups, which are thousands, came to north Syria. Are they arriving through an umbrella, or crossing the border between Syria and Turkey? They came by crossing the border. "Who encouraged them? Who financed their trip from Chechnya, from the Caucuses, from Turkmenistan, to Syria? These are important questions: Who armed them? Who gathered them? I am speaking about thousands. "So their role in supporting terrorism is very clear."

Al-Monitor asked how his insistence on the fight against terrorism will be received.

Moallem: With Russia, no problem, because the Russians themselves suffer from terrorism. From Ban Ki-moon, I met him and I explained to him why, in my opinion, this issue will pave the way for [a] political solution, because it will narrow the gap."

On the accusations of torture and the photographs that are being circulated from Qatar and London, Moallem said
"Well, first of all, before the... Gulf council ministers met in Kuwait, and they agreed in their secret agreement to have united efforts to support the coalition, politically, through the media, and legally.

"My information is that Qatar paid three lawyers in Britain to fabricate the whole story. The date is the opening of the conference. If they had these documents, why did they not show them before opening this conference? Why during the meeting of the conference? This is the first question mark."

In a closely-related development, AFP reports that Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called for an end to clashes between al-Qaida-linked jihadists and Islamists fighting to oust Syria's regime, in an audio message posted on the Internet. Zawahiri urged all jihadist groups and
"every free person in Syria seeking to overthrow (President Bashar) Assad... to seek an end to fighting between brothers in jihad and Islam immediately,"
in the recording uploaded on YouTube late on Wednesday.