x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Syrian minister accuses six nations of backing 'terrorists'

Syria's foreign minister Walid Al Moualem has urged Syrian refugees to come home from 'inhumane conditions' in countries he says are plotting against Damascus.

UNITED NATIONS // Syria's foreign minister attacked regional and international powers yesterday for interfering in the country's civil war by supporting "armed terrorists".

Walid Al Moualem urged Syrian refugees to come home from "inhumane conditions" in countries he said were plotting against Damascus. At the annual meeting of the General Assembly, Mr Al Moualem said "some well-known countries" were pursuing "new colonial policies based on political hypocrisy".

Accusing Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, Turkey, France and Libya, he said: "Under the pretext of humanitarian intervention these countries interfere in the domestic affairs of states, and impose unilateral economic sanctions that lack a moral and legal basis." The call for humanitarian intervention, he said, means the "drums of war are beaten, and sedition and unrest are spreading and damaging the structure of national societies".

Mr Al Moualem said it was "no surprise" the Security Council had failed to condemn a bombing last week in Damascus claimed by an arm of Al Qaeda, "because some of its members are supporting such acts".

"Those states either turn a blind eye to the activities of terrorist groups crossing their borders, or provide active material and logistical support from their territory for armed terrorist groups … who enter the country, to carry out terrorist acts under the name of 'jihad' in collaboration with terrorists from the inside," he said.

The US says it is providing $45 million (Dh165.2m) in non-lethal aid to unarmed opposition groups to facilitate their communications networks in the cause of documenting human-rights abuses. A French official denied France was arming rebels.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not responded to continuing Syrian charges that they are providing weapons to the opposition, but Saudi and Qatar officials have said publicly that they should be armed.

Last week the emir of Qatar called in the General Assembly for Arab armies to intervene in Syria to stop the killing, as an Arab army had during the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1990. Paradoxically, the army asked by the Arab League to intervene then was Syria's.

Mr Al Moualem also accused his external enemies of "fabricating" a refugee crisis by intimidating Syrian civilians in border areas to flee the country. "There, they are either accommodated in military training camps, or in what resembles places of detention, amid arid or rugged regions, and exploit their plight to get aid spent mostly on goals that have no relevance to humanitarian objectives," he said.

Fires and riots have recently broken out in the Zaatari camp inside Jordan. The Syrian government has stepped up calls to reverse the flow of refugees, perhaps fearing their growing numbers could spur international intervention.

Mr Al Moualem asked rhetorically whether outside interference was not a "practical interpretation of the concept of'creative chaos'," which he said "contributes to strengthen western hegemony on Mediterranean countries, and serve the expansionist interests of Israel".

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon yesterday criticised Damascus and said the conflict was getting worse. After a meeting with Mr Moallem, Mr Ban's spokesman said he "raised in the strongest terms the continued killings, massive destruction, human-rights abuses, and aerial and artillery attacks committed by the government".

On relations with Israel, the Syrian foreign minister said the civil war had not distracted Damascus from its demand that the Golan Heights be returned. "What is happening in my country must not make us lose our basic compass which is Palestine and the Golan Heights," he said.

"Therefore the Syrian Arab Republic confirms its adherence to her natural right to restore the full occupied Syrian Golan up to the line of June 6, 1967."

Mr Al Moualem also attacked European and US economic sanctions on Syria. "How can imposing sanctions on the banking, health and transport sectors be consistent with caring for the best interest of the Syrians?" he said.