Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moualem has accused the United States and its allies of supporting terrorism in his country but said his government remains open to a political settlement of its civil war.
Moualem told the UN General Assembly on Monday that his country has been facing “organised terrorism” for over a year, a reference to the countries that are backing the armed opposition in its fight against the government.
“In what context can we classify the explicit request of the United States from the armed terrorist groups not to surrender their arms as a response to amnesty decrees and decisions issued by the Syrian leadership?” Moualem asked.
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“We also wonder to what extent the statements of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, and France that clearly induce and support terrorism in Syria with money, weapons and foreign fighters, are in line with the international responsibilities of these countries in combating terrorism.”
The US and France have called for regime change in Syria while Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are widely believed to be arming rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Qatar’s emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani told the assembly last week that Arab countries should intervene in Syria out of “national, humanitarian, political and military duties” in the face of the UN Security Council’s failure to act.
Fighting in the country has left up to 30,000 people dead, according to estimates by activists.
Moualem said terrorism had affected “citizens, our human and scientific resources, national establishments, and also much of Syria’s historic and archeological landmarks”.
“The latest example of this terrorist bombing took place recently in Damascus on September 26. A terrorist group with the name ‘Jabhat AI-Nosrah’, one of the al-Qaeda arms, took the responsibility for this attack,” he added.
Saleh Mubarak, of the opposition Syrian National Council in Turkey, said the minister used terrorism because it is a “sensitive” term in the West.
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“He used al-Qaeda, he used Jihad in [such] a way to scare the West; to tell them ‘it’s either us or the terrorists will come.’ And, of course, we know the real terrorists is nobody but the Syrian government,” Mubarak told Al Jazeera.
Moualem said that peace requires action not only by Syria but by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya and others to stop arming and financing the opposition.
He also said that calls for Assad to step down were “blatant interference” in Syrian domestic affairs.
Moualem called for political solution and Syrian-led dialogue to agree on roadmap to a more democratic country and invited the opposition to “work together to stop the shedding of Syrian blood”.
“We still believe in a political solution as an essential way out of the crisis,” he said.
For this to happen, he said, UN members should press for an end to the “arming, financing, harboring and training of terrorist groups”.
Washington and many of its allies accuse Syria’s government of mass human rights abuses in the ongoing struggle to put down the armed rebellion.
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomy, reporting from New York, said one Security Council diplomat described the speech as “orthodox, predictable and completely out of touch with reality”.
“This diplomat went on to question how the Syrian government could blame others for the refugee crisis engulfing his country when, in fact, it is the Syrian military that’s arbitrarily shelling and bombing civilian areas. But, of course, the reaction to the speech depends on who you speak with,” said our correspondent.
Moualem’s speech came as government forces shelled the eastern suburbs of Damascus and clashed with armed rebels there, activists and residents said.
Residents reported hearing heavy gunfire from about 6:00am local time (03:00 GMT). They said the capital was shaken by several loud blasts, possibly artillery fire, two hours later.
“Every one of them feels like an earthquake,” a resident in the central district of Adawi told the Reuters news agency, in a telephone call punctuated by two loud explosions.
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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based anti-government rights group, said that government forces were targeting rural areas around the Zamalka and Ain Terma suburbs on the eastern fringes of Damascus, a rebel stronghold in recent months.
It said Monday’s army offensive came after Assad’s forces suffered heavy losses in the area on Sunday, when several military checkpoints came under attack.
The group also reported an attack in Salqin, a town in Idlib province near the northern border with Turkey, which reportedly killed at least 12 people, including several children.
Footage posted online by activists showed several mutilated bodies in a pickup truck, as a man shouts that his son was killed.
Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify reports of violence, as the Syrian government has placed strict restrictions on reporting.