Assad: Syria is ‘Looking East’ to Russia for Economic, Cultural Relations

Syrian president speaks on trade relationship with Moscow and Russian-led efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis

Despite their decades-old relationship, Syria’s war has placed an emphasis on the political and military relationship between Syria and Russia, President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday, blaming the conflict for a stall in economic relations during the past years.

In a statement to journalists on Monday following a meeting with Russian business delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Assad said the visit “is an opportunity to promote existing projects and the sectors in which we started work, and at the same time expanding toward new sectors that we had not set as priorities two years ago. So, the delegation today is large and diverse and covers various fields, and very important projects have been proposed for Russian investments in Syria, particularly since we started the reconstruction stage now.”

“At the same time, we talked about heading east in our economic and cultural relations and other fields, and of course when we are talking about heading east, Russia is one of the most important countries in it,” Assad added.

Speaking on international efforts to resolve the crisis, the president said that main key differences exist between the Geneva conference and the Russian-led Sochi conference. Assad said that the quality of figures or sides participating in Geneva do not represent the Syrian people. He added that Sochi will address clear issues related to the constitution and what comes after it, such as elections, explaining that here are no limits to the subjects that will be tackled at Sochi.

“With that, I’m talking about things that are still preliminary, so the difference between them cannot be specified until after matters are completed, but we certainly believe that anything is better than Geneva, because Geneva hasn’t achieved anything after three years,” he said.

Regarding talk about the United Nations playing a role in parliamentary elections, Assad said that this issue will be tackled at Sochi where the constitution will be discussed. This will include proposed amendments or a new constitution, he said, noting that when there are constitutional amendments, it is natural to have elections.

“We can say that we welcome any U.N. role as long as it respects Syrian sovereignty, as anything that impinges on this sovereignty is rejected. This should be obvious today, later, and at any time,” he said.

Responding to accusations by U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura and France that the Syrian government delegation was responsible for the lack of progress in the most recent round of Geneva talks, Assad said that it’s natural for them to criticize the Syrian government because they do not want to hold groups that work for them responsible. These comments by France or other Western countries prove that those groups work for them, and not for the sake of Syria’s interests, he added.

“Of course for us we can’t even hold these groups responsible for the failure of Geneva for a very simple reason: they are vocal groups that work for dollars, meaning that if you give them a dollar, they will make a sound, and if you give them $10, they will make various tunes of sounds according to how many dollars you give them,” Assad said.

Regarding France, Assad said: “Since the beginning, France has been the spearhead of supporting terrorism in Syria. France’s hands are covered in Syrian blood and it has no right to evaluate any peace conference. Those who support terrorism do not have the right to talk about peace, let alone the right to interfere in the Syrian affairs. All [their] statements mean nothing to us and have no value.”

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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