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Assad's Remarks at the Opera House in Damascus, January 2013

Speaker: Bashar Al-Assad
Published January 6, 2013

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave these remarks at the Opera House in Damascus on January 6, 2013.

President al-Assad's plan excerpted from the transcript provided by the Syrian Arab News Agency:

"Accordingly and out of our firm principles, on top being the sovereignty of the state and the independence of its decision, and based on the principles and goals of the UN Charter and the international law which all stress on the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of countries and non-interference in their internal affairs, and out of our belief in the necessity of having a Syrian-led dialogue among the people of Syria and restoring the atmosphere of security and stability, the political solution in Syria will be as follows:

Stage 1:

First: the concerned regional and international countries commit themselves to putting an end to funding, arming and harboring armed elements. On parallel, armed elements stop their terrorist operations, which will facilitate the return of displaced Syrians to their original residential places safely.

Immediately afterwards, the Armed Forces halt the military operations but preserve the right to respond in case the homeland, citizens and public and private facilities came under any attack.

Second: Finding a mechanism to make sure that all are committed to the aforementioned item, particularly with regard to border control.

Third: The current government immediately starts making intensive contacts with all the spectrums of the Syrian society with all its parties and bodies to conduct open discussion to pave the way for holding a national dialogue conference in which all the forces seeking a solution in Syria take part, whether they are inside or outside the country.

Stage 2:

First: The current government calls for holding a comprehensive national dialogue conference to reach a national pact that adheres to Syria's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as well as to rejecting interference in its affairs and discarding terrorism and violence in all its forms.

The government's call upon the parties and the spectrums of the society is aimed at setting the criteria for this conference which is to be held later.

As for the pact, it will draw the political future for Syria and propose the constitutional and judicial system and the political and economic features, as it will also include agreement on new laws for the parties, elections and local administration, etc.

Second: The pact will be put to referendum.

Third: An expanded government will be formed to represent the components of Syrian society, which will be assigned with implementing the provisions of the national pact.

Fourth: The new constitution will be put to referendum, and after it is approved the expanded government will adopt the laws agreed on at the dialogue conference according the new constitution, including the elections law. Afterwards, new parliamentary elections are held.

We may put the word 'if' as far as everything related to the constitution and laws is concerned because everything will be contingent on reaching agreement regarding the contribution and laws in the dialogue conference, which will be then presented by the government once they are agreed on.

Stage 3:

First: A new government will be formed according to the constitution existing at the time.

Second: A general conference for national reconciliation will be held and a general amnesty will be granted to those detained due to the events while preserving the civil rights of plaintiffs.

Third: Working on infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction and giving and compensating those affected by the events.

As for the amnesty, the civil rights of the complainants will be preserved as the state can waive its right but has no right to waive the rights of the plaintiffs.

I believe though that when we have reached that stage, it will be an amnesty granted not only by the state but also by those who have rights. Then we will have practically reached the national reconciliation when everybody would forgive everybody else.

These main features of the political solution as we view it are only titles that need details. The government will be in charge of this issue as it will be tasked with drawing out the details and expanding on these titles so as to later present this vision in the form of an initiative in the coming few days and follow up on all these stages according to the aforementioned items.

Let us put each issue in its context, since we are living now in an age of falsification and misinterpretation. It's not us who are interpreting things, but this is the general case, that is to interpret things contrary to their meanings. Therefore, let us place things in their context and correct the ideas and terms being proposed.

First, regarding this vision, some will be worried and feel concerned, considering it a step backwards in terms of security, but I reassure everyone that when it comes to combating terrorism, we will not stop as long as there is a single terrorist in Syria. What we started, we won't stop. Anything we do in this initiative doesn't mean at all that we will neglect combating terrorism; to the contrary, the more we make progress in combating terrorism, the more there's a chance for the success of this vision.

Second, this vision, whether they want to call it an initiative or a vision or ideas, is directed to all those who want dialogue and all those who want to see a political solution in the near future in Syria. It isn't directed to those who don't want dialogue and thus we'll hear as of today much rejection by parties you know well, and we tell them in advance: why reject something that isn't addressed to you in the first place. So they don't need to waste their time.

Third, any initiative proposed by any party, figure or country must be based on the Syrian vision; meaning that no initiative can replace what we view as a solution to the crisis in Syria. In clearer language, any initiative is an initiative to help what the Syrians will do and doesn't replace that. After posing the ideas by the government, any initiative that comes from abroad must be based on these ideas and assist them. There's no need to waste our time and others' time with initiatives that deviate from this context.

At the same time, if we wonder how foreign initiatives can help us, there are two axes: the political work axis, and the counter-terrorism axis. In the first axis, we don't need help, and we as Syrians are capable of carrying out an integrated political process, and those who want to help Syria in a practical actual and honest manner and want to succeed can focus on the issue of stopping the entry of gunmen, weapons and funds to Syria. This is a message to everyone working from abroad to know where to focus. We don't want someone to come to Syria and tell us what to do in a political process. A country that is thousands of years old knows how to manage its affairs.

The fourth point, supporting helpful foreign initiatives doesn't mean in any way accepting its interpretation if it doesn't match our vision. We don't accept any interpretation of these initiatives except in a manner that serves Syrian interest. In this framework I'm talking about the Geneva initiative which Syria supported but had an ambiguous article which is the transitional stage article.

Of course, it isn't explained for a simple reason, because when we speak of a transitional stage then the first thing we ask is transition from where to where, or from what to what. Is it a transition from a free, independent country to a country under occupation, for example? Do we make a transition from a country that has a state to a country without a state and a state of utter chaos? Or do we make a transition from independent national decision to handing this decision to foreigners?

Of course, opponents want all three together, and for us in such circumstances, a transitional stage is transition from instability to stability, and any other interpretation doesn't concern us. In other situations if there hadn't been a crisis, a natural transition would be from a state to a better state. This comes in the context of the development process, and any transition in terms of any transitional stage must be through constitutional means. For us, what we're doing now, these ideas; for us this is the transitional stage.

Fifth, any initiative we accepted, we did so because it is based on the principle of sovereignty and the people's decision. Indeed, the initiatives that were proposed and we dealt with, focus on this point from the beginning. Therefore, things agreed upon within Syria or outside it must be by the people's decision. Thus, even the national pact which could be approved by the national dialogue conference will not pass without a referendum. This means that there must be a popular referendum on anything, particularly in these difficult conditions. We told everyone we met that anything or any idea that comes from outside or inside my pass through popular referendum, not through the president, government, dialogue or any other thing.

This constitutes a type of guarantee to always take steps that actually express popular consensus and national interest. If we understand these simple and clear words, then all those who come to Syria and leave it know that Syria accepts advice but doesn't accept dictations and accepts help but doesn't' accept tyranny.

Based on all that, all you could have heard or did hear in the past of terms, ideas, opinions, initiatives and statements via the media and from officials don't concern us if they're terms of a "spring" origin. They are soap bubbles as the "spring" is but a soap bubble which will disappear.
Any interpretation of any issue that deviates from Syrian sovereignty for us is but mere dreams. They have the right to dream and they can live in their dreaming fantasy world, but they can't make us live in their realistic world, and we won't make any initiative or action except based on Syrian reality and on the interest and desire of the people.

Sisters and brothers,

The homeland is above all, and Syria is above all. We can strengthen Syria through political initiatives and defending every single grain of its soil. Syrians abound with forgiveness and tolerance, but pride and patriotism run in their veins. The majority of people have risen against terrorism. Some have helped through providing the competent authorities with valuable information which enabled them to abort terrorist attacks against citizens. Others have risen against terrorists and deprived them of a support base, whether through defending their areas or even taking to the streets in protest against gunmen, many even fell martyr while doing so, and others have defended the cities, districts and infrastructure hand in hand with the armed forces.

I will mention one example of a small village in the farthest north of Syria in al-Hasaka province named Raas al-Ein where the valiant young men of this village, which lies directly on the Turkish border, confronted over several days repeated terrorist attacks and were able to force out the terrorists who came from Turkey. So, we give our salute to this village.

There are others who argued, convinced, forgave and were forgiven through national reconciliation initiatives on the local level, which blocked the road before the terrorists and shifted the general situation from escalation to calm.

Those citizens have demonstrated deep awareness. The aspired-to security does not come through fence-sitting, watching, escaping or groveling to the outside. If we are not fine in our country, we won't be so anywhere outside it. The homeland is not for those who dwell in it, but for those who defend it. The homeland is not for those who enjoyed its blessings and shade but were not there when it called for them.

The homeland is for those who rose from all walks of life and affiliations when their homeland needed them, even though they were wronged at times. This is the time for giving and their giving has been without bounds. Some were honored with martyrdom, and their blood had punctured the fake 'Spring' and shielded the people from deceit that was about to bear fruit in the beginning. Their blood has punctured what the West falsely dubbed Spring, but was a vindictive fire that sought to torch whatever came its way through an abominable sectarianism, blind hatred and loathsome partitioning. It was a Spring only for those who planned it and tried to make it a reality, which is now collapsing.

The blood of martyrs protected and will protect the homeland and the region, and will protect our territorial integrity and reinforce accord among us, while at the same time purify our society of disloyalty and treason, and keep us from moral, human and cultural downfall, which is the strongest victory. When the homeland triumphs, it does not forget those who sacrificed for its sake.

I'd like to extend my salutation to those who deserve it most: the Syrian Arab army who are shedding blood and sweat for Syria which they see uppermost. Greetings to our armed forces who are fighting the fiercest of wars and are determined to restore security and stability to the homeland through uprooting terrorism.

The armed forces have wrote down the epics of heroism thanks to their cohesion, steadfastness and national unity which reflected those of the people, thus doing citizens proud and keeping them safe. Glory to every soldier who is completing the mission of his colleagues who passed away.

I salute every single citizen who did his national duty through standing by the armed forces, each from his position. Those are the pride of Syria whose names will go down in history, for they are writing history with their blood and valor.

Sisters and brothers,

I know as you all know that what the homeland is going through is painful and difficult, and I feel the pain which is felt by most of the Syrian people over the loss of loved ones and the martyrdom of sons and relatives as the fire of the grudge has reached everyone, the pure coffins of the martyrs have entered the houses of many and I am one of them because I come from the people and will remain so. Offices of state and government are transient but the homeland is everlasting. The tears of bereaved mothers will refresh the pure souls of their departed loved ones and burn the criminals, who stole the laugh of our children and here they are trying to steal their future in a safe, strong and stable country.

Syria will remain as it is and will return, God willing, stronger. There is no ceding rights or giving in on principles. Those who placed their bets on weakening Syria so that it might forget the Golan and its occupied lands are mistaken. The Golan is ours and Palestine is our cause for which we offered every precious thing, blood and martyrs. We will remain the supporters of resistance against the one enemy. Resistance is a culture, not individuals. Resistance is a thought and practice not concessions and seizing opportunities.

The people and state who bore the brunt of standing with the Palestinian people in their just cause for decades, despite all the challenges and costs that every Syrian citizen has paid materially and emotionally in terms of pressures and threats, cannot be but in the same place towards Palestinians.

Any attempt to implicate the Palestinians in the Syrian events is aimed at deflecting attention from the main enemy, and is stillborn. The Palestinians in Syria are doing their duty towards their second homeland like any Syrian. We are responsible, as Syrian people and state, for doing our duty towards them as towards any Syrian citizen. I salute every honest Palestinian who valued the Syrian stances and did not treat Syria as a hotel which he leaves when conditions get a little tight.

Sisters and brothers,

In spite of what has been planned against Syria and what has been done to us by those who are near before those who are far, they could never change us. Patriotism runs in our blood and Syria is the most precious of all. Your steadfastness over two years tells the whole world that Syria is impervious to collapse and the Syrian people impervious to humiliation. Steadfastness and challenge is deeply rooted in the Syrian body which we have inherited over generations. We will always be like that. Hand in hand we will move ahead despite all the wounds, taking Syria to a brighter and stronger future. We will move forward and we will not be frightened by their bullets or panicked by their hatred because we have rights and God is always with the right."

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