Highlights of Assad’s speech


Syrian president blames unrest on saboteurs, pledges reforms
Here are some of the highlights of his speech given at Damascus University.

On nature of unrest:

“The solution is to solve the problem with our own hands.”
“What do we say about these political positions? About the pressure from the media, the advanced telephones that we started seeing spreading in Syria in the hands of saboteurs, the fabrications? We cannot say these are acts of goodwill, this is definitely a conspiracy.”

On protesters:

“We have to distinguish between them (protesters, and others who have legitimate demands) and saboteurs. The saboteurs are a small group that tried to exploit the kind majority of the Syrian people to carry out their many schemes.”
On extending amnesty:

“I will ask the Justice Ministry to carry out a study about extending the parameters of the amnesty, even if it’s in another decree…”

On extremism:

“Those are (people) characterised by having fundamentalist ways of thinking … He sows destruction under the name of reforms and spreads chaos under the name of freedom.”

On national dialogue:

“The committee does not hold dialogue, it presides over dialogue. It has decided to hold a consultative meeting in the next few days and will invite more than a hundred personalities to discuss with them the criteria and mechanisms, and after that dialogue will begin immediately.”

“A schedule will be specified that says the time for dialogue will be a month or two depending what the participants decide in the consultative meeting.

“This dialogue is a very important issue which we have to give a chance because all of Syria’s future, if we want it to be successful, has to be dependent on this dialogue in which all different parties on the Syrian arena will participate.”

On political legislation:

“If we complete the Parties law and the Elections law — the most important legislation in political reform — we can immediately start national dialogue, which will discuss all of these laws.”

On depressed economy:

“It is important now to work together to restore confidence in the Syrian economy. The most dangerous thing we face in the next stage is the weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy, and a large part of the problem is psychological.”

“We cannot allow depression and fear to defeat us. We have to defeat the problem by returning to normal life.”

On parliamentary elections:

“The parliamentary elections, if they are not postponed, will be held in August. We will have a new parliament by.. August and I think we can say that we are able to accomplish this package (of reforms)…in September, this package will be complete.”

On refugees:

“I call on each person or family who left their city or village to come back as soon as possible, and I affirm the support of the Syrian government for the people who left Jisr al-Shughour and the surrounding villages to Turkey.”

“There are those who give them the impression that the state will exact revenge, I affirm that is not true. The army is there for the security.

On support for army:

“The most important point is for life to go back to normal even if this crisis or another one lasts for months or years, we have to adapt to it and contain it for it to be a limited crisis.

“Until the army returns to its barracks, we have to support the army and help the army and ask it to help us.

The sons of the army are brothers of every Syrian citizen. The army has always been about honour and dignity.”

No political solution was possible with people carrying weapons, he said.

As Syrian forces swept through the northwestern border region with Turkey, blocking refugees fleeing a military crackdown, Assad pledged safety for the 10,000 who have alreadytaken refuge in Turkey if they come home.

“There are those who give them the impression that the state will exact revenge, I affirm that is not true. The army is there for security,” he said in the speech at Damascus University.

A committee on national dialogue will meet in the next few days and invite more than 100 personalities to discuss the criteria and mechanism for constitutional reform, he said. He set a one-month target date for presenting recommendations.

Syria’s military operation along the Turkish border follows the biggest protests in four months of anti-Assad unrest on Friday which a violent clampdown has failed to quash.

Security forces shot dead up to 19 protesters on Friday, rights groups said.

In addition to the more than 10,000 Syrian refugees now in Turkey, a further 10,000 are sheltering close to the border just inside Syria in the olive groves and rich farmland around the town of Jisr al-Shughour, Turkish officials said.

But Syrian human rights campaigner Ammar al-Qurabi said the army was now stopping those still inside Syria from leaving.

“The Syrian army has spread around the border area to prevent frightened residents from fleeing across the border to Turkey,” he told Reuters.


Qurabi also accused pro-government forces of attacking people trying to aid the refugees as they fled.

The violence so close to its border challenges Turkey’s foreign policy of “zero problems with neighbours” that has seen it befriend the Middle East’s autocratic rulers while presenting itself as a champion of democracy.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said Turkey has pledged to keep his borders open to refugees and has called the Syrian government crackdown “savagery”, but beyond words, it is not clear whether Ankara’s rapprochement with Damascus has earned Turkey any influence with Assad to halt the violence.

Refugees “fear getting shot”

Syrian troops and gunmen loyal to Assad seized the town of Bdama, only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Turkey on Saturday, burning houses and arresting dozens, witnesses said.

“There are roadblocks everywhere in Bdama to prevent people from fleeing but villagers are finding other routes through valleys to escape to the Turkish border,” said Omar, a farmer from Bdama who managed to reach the border area.

“We received no bread today. There was one bakery operating in Bdama but it has been forced to shut. The ‘shabbiha’ (Assad’s gunmen) are shooting randomly,” one refugee, a carpenter who gave his name as Hammoud, told Reuters by telephone.

“One man in Bdama was injured today and we managed to smuggle him to hospital in Turkey. But many fear getting shot if they attempt to cross the border,” the refugee added.

Faced with troops firing live ammunition, Syrian protesters have taken to venting their anger against Assad at night.

Demonstrations erupted overnight in the cities of Hama, Homs, Latakia, Deir al-Zor, the town of Madaya near the Lebanese border, several suburbs of the capital Damascus and in Albu Kamal on the border with Iraq, witnesses and activists said.

Authorities blame the violence on armed groups and Islamists, backed by foreign powers. Syria has barred most international journalists from entering the country, making it difficult to verify accounts from activists and officials.

Syrian rights groups say at least 1,300 civilians have been killed and 10,000 people detained since March.

The Syrian Observatory for human rights has said more than 300 soldiers and police have also been killed. Other rights campaigners said dozens of security personnel had been killed by loyalist troops for refusing to shoot at unarmed civilians.

Even so, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev practically ruled out supporting a UN resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

In an interview published in the Financial Times on Monday, Medvedev criticised the way Western countries had interpreted UN resolution 1973 on Libya which he said turned it into “a scrap of paper to cover up a pointless military operation”.

“I would not like a Syrian resolution to be pulled off in a similar manner,” he added.

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