President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said the Syrian-Turkish relations have made remarkable progress and turned into a strategic partnership between the two countries, adding that the benefits of this partnership will not be restricted to both countries, but they will also include other countries.
"Those relations have expanded to include Jordan and Lebanon, and they will broaden to include more countries," the President said at a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"In this framework, the meeting held in Lattakia a little over a week ago was very important and added much to this relation," President al-Assad added.
Presidents al-Assad and Erdogan expressed the readiness of Syria and Turkey to help in forming an Iraqi government capable of improving the internal situation, achieving national reconciliation and unity among all spectrums of the Iraqi people, and improves relations with neighboring countries.
President al-Assad expressed satisfaction over the level of Syrian-Turkish relations, noting that these relations achieve great progress by every meeting in comparison to the previous meeting.
His Excellency said that talks before the press conference focused on political issues only, and that an expanded meeting after the conference will deal with bilateral relations in the presence of Syrian and Turkish officials.
President al-Assad: It's natural for countries neighboring Iraq to be concerned and hopeful concerning any change in Iraq, because it affects us negatively or positively
President al-Assad said: "We focused in out talks on the political topic. It's natural to give priority to the Iraqi issue. There is a government-formation process which is supposed to have started right after the end of elections in Iraq. More than six months have passed and a government hasn't been formed yet."
President al-Assad continued: ''It's natural for the countries neighboring Iraq to be concerned, and at the same time hopeful concerning any change taking place in Iraq, because it affects us negatively or positively according to the situation in Iraq on the political or security levels.
''Definitely, to discuss this topic does not mean that we, as Iraq's neighboring countries, Syria, Turkey or others, are speaking on behalf of the Iraqis. The work and decision remain for the Iraqis''.
Israel is continuing its crimes of killing Palestinians, siege on Gaza Strip, and Judaization of Jerusalem
President al-Assad said that the peace issue and the international moves and developments in this regard were an important part of the talks.
"The moves and initiatives of some countries to push the peace process forwards on the Syrian, Palestinian or Lebanese tracks were also discussed in addition to briefing Premier Erdogan on the ideas proposed by these countries and the discussions with them the during meeting," President al-Assad said.
President al-Assad pointed out that the content of this issue is initial ideas raised by some countries… "We can't tell for sure if they could push the peace process forward or not. That's why I have nothing to add to this point, even though the atmosphere is not positive.''
"There are initiatives and that is something new, but the atmosphere, the conditions and the requirements of the peace process depend on the political main parts; the Arab and Israeli sides. Every one knows that the Arab side wants peace, but the Israeli side is working in the opposite direction," President al-Assad said.
President al-Assad added "We are not considering the statements issued by the Israeli government or other figures that have a role inside Israel which reflect a serious lack of will to reach peace, we are more concerned with the Israeli government's exercises, continued killing of Palestinians, continued siege on Gaza Strip, repeated murders in the West Bank and attempts to Judaize Jerusalem."
"Those exercises are not new, but apparently the international circumstances seemingly became prepared to support Israel in this direction," president al-Assad said.
President al-Assad added that this movement or other movements are inseparable from the first Zionist congress held in 19th century. "We shouldn't be surprised by all those details. They are becoming a de facto with time".
The racist decisions made by Israel, the latest of which was the law of swearing loyalty to the Israeli Jewish state or the Jewish state, expresses the Israeli fascism
President al-Assad said: '' the racist decisions made by Israel, the latest of which was related to the law of swearing loyalty by the non-Jews to the Israeli Jewish state or the Jewish state in Israel. For us, this expresses the Israeli fascism as embodied in killing and such laws. All these points don't give any serious indications towards peace.''
President al-Assad said the Turkish people, and not only the Turkish government, have stood by their Palestinian brothers, particularly during the stage of Gaza siege… They now know, more than any others, the Israeli intentions following the aggression on the Freedom Flotilla which was carrying basic materials for life to Gaza people.
"The Turkish demands regarding the aggression on the Freedom Flotilla and the Turkish martyrs who passed away as a result of the aggression are right demands on the national level and a right for the families of those martyrs," the President added.
On the Syrian stance regarding those who belong to the Kurdistan Workers' Party and returning them to Syria and the measures taken by Syria and Turkey or separately in this regard, President al-Assad said that Syria's stance wasn't accidental because Syria had witnessed different cases and there were terrorist acts under different names, adding that "It's natural for any country to seek to open the door to everyone who wants to retreat from his mistake".
President al-Assad added that a framework that governs this process is important and it should be a national frame defined according to the national interests agreed upon by all spectrums of the society.
"This stance is not new, it's an old stance that is connected to other similar issues and it will always be there. We should open the door for those who commit mistakes," President al-Assad said.
President al-Assad added that Syria and Turkey have something in common either in the vision over these operations or through the coordination between Syria and Turkey in the political and security domains over these operations. There might be similar frameworks to deal with them.
"Terrorist might belong to different countries and the national framework differs. In Syria it's a Syrian framework, and in Turkey it's a Turkish framework but the principles are identical, so the coordination between us and Turkey in this issue is of great importance to define one framework or similar framework," president al-Assad pointed out.
President al-Assad added that the amnesty is not a process of amnesty… It's an open door that should be opened for a long time and maybe for ever, saying "we can't just issue an amnesty then close that door because amnesty is not a pardon for one person, it’s an open door for those who want to retreat from a mistake in the future so that they return as natural part of their societies in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
Regarding Syria's stance on the Israeli cabinet's amending the so-called citizenship law providing for swearing loyalty to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state," President al-Assad stressed that this act is a racist and fascist act, saying "we mustn't be afraid of terms when they are realistic, but at the same time we mustn't be surprised by what Israel does as this is a long-term plan that moves gradually… not knowing or expecting this plan indicates a lack of knowledge of history and of Israel's declared intention.
"On the other hand, we must be glad because Israel is exposing itself… Israel used to tell the world that it wants peace and that it's a docile lamb, and that there is a wolf which is the Arabs that wants to eat it or devour it… It was proven by the peace process and through the Turkish mediation last year that Israel is the one that doesn't want peace, and now many of the world's countries and officials – even those who support Israel and are biased towards it – cannot deny this point."
President al-Assad said "This is the same thing for Israel which depicted itself as the only democratic country in this Arab and Islamic world… this jungle filled with monsters… it was proven that Israel is a racist country."
His Excellency noted that the steps that used to be taken by Israel in an indirect way to avoid uncovering its true nature are now being taken openly, which is a good thing, adding "those who don't want or cannot understand… now they can't help but understand."
Syrian-Lebanese relation is inseparable from the situation in Lebanon
In reply to a question on the Syrian-Lebanese relations, the latest developments and the dimensions of these relations, President al-Assad said: ''Years ago, Turkey started attempts to improve the Syrian-Lebanese relations through its relations with different sides in Lebanon and through its relation with the Syrian government. I believe that the Turkish credibility is high in this kind of relations and leads to positive results''.
''At the same time, a great number of people, or a great number of the misled Lebanese, discovered that Syria had no connection to the assassination of the former Lebanese Premier Rafiq al-Hariri as it was accused in 2005. Of course we in Syria didn't have any doubts or concerns over this point, but it was natural for us to overreact at that time as a result of instigation and we had to give it enough time to get it back to its normal situation.''
President al-Assad went on to say: "On the whole, the Syrian-Lebanese relation, no matter how good are Syria's or the Lebanese government's intentions, is inseparable from the situation in Lebanon. There is a division in Lebanon which is not new. This has been Lebanon's history for centuries rather than decades. There is a lot of division which affects Lebanon's relations with the others, in particular with Syria as the only country neighboring Lebanon, given that Israel is an enemy state occupying territories which we don't consider as a neighboring country.''
''Let's be clear on this point. We always encourage the Lebanese to be unanimous so that the relation improves. Without Lebanese unanimity, there will always remain a ceiling for this relation's development. This relation is improving right now, but it is not improving enough as to return to normal relations,'' President al-Assad continued President al-Assad added, "As for us in Syria, we didn't have any demands for the Lebanese. We want only one thing from Lebanon that we request from any country, which are security and good relations. This means that no country conspires against another but to cooperate with it politically and economically in a way that serves the relations between the two countries."
Erdogan: Syrian-Turkish relations passed very important stages recently
For his part, Erdogan said "I had discussions, in the first stage, with my dear brother President al-Assad and Premier Otri… Syria and Turkey are brother countries bound by historic and deep-rooted relations; they passed very important stages in the political, cultural and economical domains recently".
Erdogan spoke about the meeting of the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council, in which 12 ministers met with their Turkish counterparts in the Syrian city of Lattakia, considering the meeting as a crowning of what was accomplished earlier.
"The meeting was a great important opportunity for this relation, there is another move in the coming period, particularly concerning the strategic cooperation between the four countries; Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. We'll have friends meeting with each other in this stage, the 4 countries' premiers will meet in December to lay the foundations for the Strategic Cooperation Council," Erdogan added.
The Iraqi government should be formed on national bases
"Right from now, we can see some important and positive indications which will have impacts on this relation and on the Council. There are few problems suffered by the region and that is normal, as President al-Assad spoke earlier about this issue, the priority is the Iraqi issue, the Iraqi government hasn't been formed yet. For us as neighboring countries, we are very sad over that. There is a political vacuum in Iraq that must be removed through a national agreement that gathers all spectrums of the Iraqi people," Erdogan went on saying.
The Turkish premier considered that any government formed on racial, religious or sectarian basis won't bring any thing to Iraq and won't develop the country. The Iraqi government should be formed on national bases and aims at achieving the unity of the Iraqi people.
"We, in Syria and Turkey, are ready to provide all assistance and help to our brothers in Iraq and contribute to what could put an end to this problem," Erdogan added.
Israel has to apologize for the airdrop on the Freedom Flotilla and compensate the martyrs' families
Erdogan said, "We also talked about the peace process. There is a process started already, but it reached a specific point and all sides know how this process stopped after the aggression on Gaza."
"Up till now, some developments have happened in this framework. Some events also took place such as the ship which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza when Israel carried out an airdrop on that ship. We all know the report issued in Geneva in this framework."
Erdogan said Israel has to apologize for the airdrop on the Freedom Flotilla in the international waters and it has to compensate the martyrs' families who have been executed by fire from a short distance as confirmed by reports of forensic medicine.
"Regrettably, some sides remained neutral and didn't talk about that operation, and even some have offered nothing over this accident… History will not tolerate or forgive them for keeping silent over what Israel perpetrated," Erdogan added.
He said, "We discussed with President al-Assad another topic concerning the realization of peace in the region and the progress made among Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
"When we discuss issues on the quartet level, we will talk about all the details. There will be no difficulties in the way to achieve any important or positive development among these countries."
Answering a question on security cooperation between the two countries in the field of combating terrorism, Erdogan said, "There is joint cooperation between us in this issue. The interior ministers and security officials concerned were in Lattakia during the meeting held there. In the future, there will be communications about this issue".
He added that there are long borders between -Turkey and Syria exceeding 700 or 800 kilometers, so there must be cooperation between the two countries particularly in such a field.
Answering a question on the Human Right Council's adoption of a report made by the Investigation Committee into the Israeli hostile attack against the Freedom Flotilla and the Turkish decision in this regard, and where the Turkish-Israeli relations stand right now, Erdogan said "According to the report, there is a constant symposium on this issue up till now, and maybe a report or reports will be prepared by the Investigation Committee and these reports will be assessed by us and we will reconsider them…Initially Israel must apologies before anything and we stress that it must give compensations."
"Regarding our relations with Israel, we will reconsider them in the framework of the results reached by the Investigation Committee, of course if they are negative," Erdogan added.
Erdogan went on to say" With regard to the trade relations, there are still some constant issues between Turkey and Israel, but Israel must comply with the decisions taken in this regard and it depends on Israel, if it doesn't comply with these decisions, it will remain isolated from the region and on the international level…Turkey pays a great attention to this point in this period."
After the press conference, President Bashar al-Assad held a lunch banquet in honor of Turkish Premier Erdogan in presence of the official members of the two delegations.
Later, President al-Assad and Erdogan held a session of discussions focused on the bilateral relations and the latest steps achieved in the framework of the Syrian-Turkish strategic partnership.
The deliberations were attended by Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri, Assistant Vice President Lt. Gen. Hassan Turkmani, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, and Syria's Ambassador in Ankara Nidal Qabalan.
From the Turkish side, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglo and Turkish Ambassador in Damascus Omer Onhon also attended the discussions.
Earlier, President al-Assad held talks on Monday with Premier Erdogan who arrived in Damascus for talks with the President on cooperation between Syria and Turkey and the latest regional developments.
President al-Assad visited Turkey last June and discussed with the Turkish President the situation in the region, with the two sides stressing the importance of continued consultation to enhance security and stability in the region.
Erdogan visited Syria in December 2009 and held talks with President al-Assad. He also chaired the Turkish side in the first meeting of the Syrian-Turkish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council during which 51 agreements, memos of understanding and work programs were signed on cooperation between the two countries in all areas.
The Syrian-Turkish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council held its second meeting this month in Lattakia and discussed cooperation in all fields.
Five documents were signed including a cooperation protocol on passengers and goods movement, a memo of understanding between the Turkish Development Bank and the State Planning Commission in Syria and three executive programs in the agricultural field.