ROME — “Like the rest of the West, the Vatican has a distorted narrative” of the situation in Syria, declared President Bashar al-Assad on Italian television Monday night.
“We hope that the Vatican, as a state, will convince many other states to stop interfering in the Syrian question and stop violating international law. This is all we want,” Assad told Monica Maggioni of the RAI 24 news site in a taped November 26 interview that aired Monday.
The Syrian president was responding to a letter sent to him by Pope Francis last summer in which the pontiff appealed for renewed stability in Syria, asking the president to “do everything possible” to remedy the humanitarian crisis in the country’s Idlib province, and to create the conditions for “a safe return of exiles and internally displaced persons.”
Saying that the pope has an “incomplete” understanding of what is going on in Syria, Assad said: “We are the ones who have the safety of civilians at heart.”
The main narrative in the West “is about this ‘bad government’ killing the ‘good people,’” Assad said, adding that western media show the Syrian Army targeting civilians and hospitals, “which is not correct.”
Assad said he wrote a response to Francis “explaining to the pope the reality in Syria.”
We are “the first to be concerned about civilian lives, because you cannot liberate an area while the people are against you. You cannot talk about liberation while the people are against you or the society,” he said.
In his interview, Assad laid the blame for the Syrian conflict on Europe, saying that EU support for terrorism had created the refugee problem.
“Who created this problem? Why do you have refugees in Europe?” Assad asked. “It’s a simple question: because of terrorism supported by Europe — and of course by the USA and Turkey — but Europe has been the main agent in creating chaos in Syria. What goes around comes around.”
“The EU has supported the terrorists in Syria since day one,” he continued. “They have accused the Syrian government, and some like France have sent arms. They created chaos.”
“This is another reason for the refugees that you have in Europe now,” Assad said. “You don’t want refugees but at the same time you create the situation or the atmosphere that will tell them ‘go outside Syria, somewhere else,’ and of course they will go to Europe.”