Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad discussed many issues in an interview with Sky News Arabia (UAE) that aired on August 9, 2023. He said that he cannot possibly agree to Turkish President Erdoğan's preconditions for a meeting between the two leaders, because Syria seeks a Turkish withdrawal from its territory while Erdoğan seeks to "legalize" Turkey's occupation in Syria under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Al-Assad continued to say that Jabhat Al-Nusra or Ahrar Al-Sham were actually created in Turkey and continue to be bankrolled by Turkey.
Regarding talks with the United States, he said that there have been "sporadic" discussions between the two countries, but he does not "entertain any hopes" that there will be "any outcome" to negotiations with the Americans "in the near future."
Al-Assad said that the Hamas leaders took a "treacherous stance" against Syria and that it is too early to talk about restoring relations with them.
When asked by Sky News Arabia, whether like he became president following the death of his father, President Hafez Al-Assad, his son Hafez, intends to "play a political role in the future of Syria," Bashar Al-Assad responded that his late father played no role in his becoming president. He added that his father had not discussed a future succession even during his final days of illness and he too does not intend to discuss such details with his son. However, Al-Assad added, that it is up to his personal wishes and the country's acceptance of "any person," who wants to join public service.
Interviewer: "There is talk about negotiations between the Americans and you, on a diplomatic level. What has been achieved so far?"
Bashar Al-Assad: "Nothing. There have been sporadic discussions for years, and we have never had, not for a minute, any hope that the Americans would change. The Americans make demands, take and take, without giving anything. This has been the nature of the relations with the Americans for 5 decades, since 1974. It is not dependent on this or that administration. So we do not entertain any hope, but it is our policy in Syria not to shut any door before any [reconciliation] attempt, so that people will not be able to say that if we did this or that, things would be different. However, I do not expect, in the foreseeable future, any outcome to any negotiations with the Americans."
Interviewer: "You have two conditions for restoring your relations with Turkey: Turkey must withdraw its forces and must stop its support of the terrorists. Turkey asked that the negotiations would be without preconditions. In light of this, when can your meeting with President Erdogan be expected, especially considering that he does not object to this meeting?"
Al-Assad: "'Without any preconditions' means a meeting without an agenda, which in turn, means with no preparation and no results. Why would Erdogan and I meet? To have soft drinks together? We want to reach a clear goal. Our goal is to bring about their withdrawal from Syrian territory, whereas Erdogan's goal is to legalize the Turkish occupation in Syria. This is why we cannot meet under Erdogan's terms."
Interviewer: "But Erdogan says that as long as there is terrorism that threatens Turkey, these forces cannot leave. The truth is that the terrorists in Syria are made in Turkey. Jabhat Al-Nusra or Ahrar Al-Sham – they are different names of the same party. They are all made-in-Turkey and are still bankrolled by Turkey. So what terrorism is he talking about?
"Hamas leaders used to say that Syria asked them to support it. How can they possibly support us? How can they possibly defend Syria? They do not have an army. There are only a few dozen of them in Syria. This is not true.
"I have said several times that their stance was treacherous – not because we had stood by them, but because they claimed to be part of the resistance back then. I am talking about their leaders, not about all of Hamas. I do not know all of them."
Interviewer: "Can the relations be restored to what they were in the past?'
Al-Assad: "No. Currently, [Hamas] does not have offices in Syria, and it is too early to talk about such a thing, because we have other priorities now. The fighting in Syria is our priority."
Interviewer: "With regard to the future of Syria, Mr. President – you became president following [the death] of your father, Hafez Al-Assad, although you, indeed, won the elections, later on. Will your son, Hafez, play a political role in the future of Syria?"
Al-Assad: "First of all, President Hafez Al-Assad did not have any role whatsoever in me becoming president. He did not secure for me any civil or military position, through which I would have become president. I rose to power through the [Baath] party, after his death. I did not discuss with him even in his last weeks, although he was ill back then.
"Similarly, my relation with my son is that of family members, and I do not discuss these things with him, especially considering that he is still young, and has not yet completed his educational journey. This depends on his personal wishes, and on the public level, it depends on the country's acceptance of any person, if that person wants to join the public service. But the truth is I do not want to discuss these details with him, not now and not later."