President al-Assad: The issue is not about labeling areas as being under our control or under the control of the militants; there isn’t a single area that the army has planned to enter and not been able to do so. The real challenge is the continuous influx of terrorists from across the borders and the acts they have perpetrated at a social level in the areas they have infiltrated.
Le Figaro: Moratinos, a previous friend of yours, told me few days ago that he cannot understand what is in Bashar al-Assad’s mind, how could he possibly commit such violence in his country.
President al-Assad: There is an analogy that can also be asked here: how could France allow the killing of the terrorists who terrified French citizens? How did the British deal with the riots in Britain last year? Why was the army deployed in Los Angeles in the nineties? Why are other countries allowed to fight terrorism and Syria isn’t? Why is it forbidden for Mohammed Merah to stay alive in France and to kill civilians and yet terrorists are allowed to remain alive in Syria and kill innocent people?
Le Figaro: Mr. President, how has your daily routine changed in terms of leading the country since the beginning of the crisis? Some suggest that after two-and-a-half years Bashar al-Assad is leading the country alone.
President al-Assad: This is what I meant earlier, if the West is against me and so were the Syrian people, if I was alone, how could I conceivably be leading the country? This is illogical. I can continue to lead because of the strength of public support and the strength of the Syrian state. Unfortunately, those in the West do not view this reality objectively.
Le Figaro: Mr. President, a number of French journalists have been held in Syria. Do you have any idea of their situation? Are the Syrian authorities holding them?
President al-Assad: Do you mean that we are holding them?
Le Figaro: They were taken hostage in the North of Syria; do you have information on their fate?
President al-Assad: If they were taken hostage by the terrorists, you will have to ask them. If anyone is arrested by the government for entering the country illegally, they will be taken to court rather than being held in jail. They would face charges according to Syrian law and this would be public knowledge.
Le Figaro: Are you looking to cooperate with France on security issues? This was an area that went well in the past.
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