Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal Address to the Global Forum on Counter-Terrorism
Statement by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal
Global Forum on Counter-Terrorism
24 September 2014
Two and a half years ago, we met as the Friends of Syria Group, to announce our support for the right of the Syrian people to freedom and dignity. At the time, there were no terrorist organizations operating in Syria, no moderate and extremist opposition, and no use of chemical weapons against unarmed innocent civilian.
Today we meet, not to discuss the right of the Syrian people to defend themselves, but to discuss countering extremism and terrorism; not just in Syria, but also in Iraq and other parts of the region, and to look at ways to support the moderate Syrian opposition and isolate its extremist elements. The greatest catastrophe; however, is the number of deaths, which has surpassed two hundred thousand, and the number of those displaced, which is estimated at over nine million civilians inside and outside Syria.
How did we get to the current situation? History teaches us that the longer an internal conflict lasts, and the more barbaric it gets, the more likely that extremist elements will flourish. The Syrian regime and its allies are more aware of this historic lesson than others. The Syrian regime’s strategy has created the environment we see today in Syria and Iraq. While the international community was hesitant and divided in regards to supporting the peaceful revolution of the Syrian people, the regime intentionally militarized the revolution, viciously suppressed peaceful demonstrations, and resorted to murder and depravation. These actions were meant to push the peaceful Syrian revolution towards violence and extremism, to justify the regime’s barbaric actions as a war on terrorism.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s position has always been, and remains, to support the moderate Syrian opposition. However, our war on terrorism must start with eliminating the negative environment and unfair conditions, which have produced this extremism in the first place.
The first of these conditions is the unwillingness of the Assad regime to reach a viable political solution for the conflict in Syria as well as the continuation of the regime’s tactics that employ murder, torture, depravation, and the use of explosive barrel bombs against civilians. In fact, there are many clear indications that point to the Syrian regime as the main factor behind the rise of Daash (ISIS).
The Syrian regime has made great efforts to provide the proper environment for the rise of terrorist organizations. The regime has facilitated the funding of these organizations by allowing them to take control of oil and wheat fields, to collect custom fees from border crossing points, and to collect taxes from citizens in areas under the control of these organizations. Also, the Syrian regime’s corruption, illegitimacy and reckless violence have destroyed all Syrian political and security institutions, which created a security vacuum that provided the proper environment for terrorist organizations to grow. This allowed these organizations to grow in Syria and Iraq, and to control Iraqi territories that are adjacent to the Iraqi-Syrian border, which could extend to other neighboring countries.
These circumstances deem it necessary that we end the conflict in Syria through a political resolution based on the Geneva Communiqué, as ending this conflict is an essential condition for combating terrorism in the entire region. However, the world has witnessed how the Syrian regime, with the support of its allies, has refused to fulfill any of its commitments to the international community during the Geneva II negotiations. And, we are totally convinced that the Assad regime will not negotiate without tipping the balance of power on the ground in favor of the moderate Syrian opposition.
Therefore, our support for the moderate Syrian opposition must not be limited to military support aimed at confronting terrorist organizations in Syria. Our support must also include concrete steps to weaken the Syrian regime through economic sanctions, pursuing its leadership through international legal mechanisms for the crimes they have committed, intensifying its political isolation, and encouraging defections within its military and civilian ranks.