Q: More than a hundred days have passed since you were commissioned to form the government. Where are you up to in this process?
A: The government is now fully to go inside Syria and start work. Honestly, it has been ready since last April. The elections were in March and we were ready on 28 April to discuss the form of the government with the Coalition, [but] some developments within the Coalition led to a delay in the meeting.
Q: Some parties in the Coalition refuse to commission Ghassan Hitto to head the government. Why?
A: I ask those who refuse the transitional government: what is the alternative? This is the question. Those who refuse to commission Ghassan Hitto to head the government and lead this project should carry out his responsibility and tell the Syrian people that he has an alternative project better than the government, with or without Hitto.
The prime minister is not the problem or the solution; people come and go. But we see the project of the government as a critical necessity now. When we talk about a worsening humanitarian situation, when we talk about food security, about drinking water, about electricity and border crossings and oil, about the national sources that may prevent us from borrowing from the others, all these things cannot be solved through people or committees. They need a government to deal with these critical issues so that their income can be returned. Whoever refuses the government and refuses Hitto should suggest an alternative.
Q: What is the role of Saudi Arabia in delaying the formation of the transitional government?
A: I don’t want to talk about external friendly forces such as Saudi Arabia and other nations, or about any direct interference in decision making. But I would like to talk about the independence in Syrian decision making.
Syrians have to be independent, they shouldn’t accept external orders. I don’t say that there are external orders because I don’t know about them. If there were external orders, they would have reached me, but I haven’t received any orders from Saudi Arabia or any other country that tells me to step down. I have heard from some people that Saudi Arabia wants me to step down, I tell those and the others that Saudi Arabia is talking with the prime minister commissioned by the National Coalition which is recognized by more than one hundred and thirty countries.
Believe me, this respectable and friendly nation who supports the Syrian revolution will not send someone to Ghassan Hitto to tell him to step down and that Saudi Arabia doesn’t support his nomination. These things are treated on a higher level, and I am telling you that when we asked the Saudi government to clarify their attitude towards this issue, they said that they have no problem with the transitional government or with a government headed by Hitto. They said that this is a decision that should be made by Syrians, so I think there should be much more investigation before saying such things.
Q: Syrian citizen are today asking what this government will provide and whether it will have any real authority over Islamic groups, the Free Syrian Army and the oil fields.
A: This government will be a service government in general. It will be concerned with citizens' affairs. This service government will address many issues: It will treat administrative and humanitarian disorder and it will have a role in treating military disorder. It is certain that we will make an effort to regain oil resources and dedicate those resources to servicing the people. The problem of border security is important for us because antiques are being smuggled out of Syria, along with livestock, and crop produce. Some factories have been deconstructed their instruments and are being smuggled and sold illegally. When the crossings are controlled, most of these problems will be solved. We don’t say all of them, but most of them. Controlling the crossings will have a role in solving these problems.
Q: If this government was certified by the Coalition, will you go to Geneva 2 as a government?
A: The decision to go to Geneva 2 needs deep study and this decision will come from the Coalition and not from the government. In my opinion, whoever thinks of going to Geneva needs to make gains that help him in negotiation; how do we go to negotiations while we are so weak? How do we negotiate while the regime is bombarding Homs, Aleppo and Damascus countryside, and continues killing, detaining and torturing people? How do we go to negotiate while the crime machinery still works? How do we go without an executive organization? The other party goes to the negotiations with a government and we don’t have one, how can we negotiate? We want to be strong, so we have to gain military and service advantages. We have to have a government which can fight the government of Bashar Assad, an alternative government so that the international community and Bashar Assad will not oblige us to participate in the existing government. We will not go that way and we are not concerned with a partnership government with the regime, we are not concerned with partnership with criminals, but we are concerned with finding a political solution for the crisis. We don’t refuse the political solution but we want a solution that guarantees the achievement the revolution's goals.
Q: Do you trust the American promises to provide the opposition with weapons?
A: The last time I heard from Americans they didn’t promise to provide the opposition with weapons. They said in the last meeting of Friends of Syria that they would allow any nation to support the revolution with weapons, each according to its circumstances and ability. The last time I spoke with Americans they said that there isn’t a direct decision to provide the opposition with weapons. They provide nonlethal support such as clothes, food, training and similar things.
Q: Is the decision made in the meeting of Friends of Syria to arm the opposition a way to prolong the conflict or to end it?
A: It will prolong the conflict if the nature of this support doesn’t change in quality and quantity. We undoubtedly need the support of arms and we need it from everybody. We need more support for the Chief of Staff and armed battalions, but the quality and quantity of weapons is not enough; we need the weapons that can stop planes from bombarding our cities, we need anti-missile weapons and a lot of ammunition. We need money to pay the salaries of the fighters to hold their position in the battle. We thank all those who support this revolution with arms or with anything else, but we tell them that this support is not enough to achieve victory and it is not enough to change the balance of power.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer