Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari spoke to reporters at the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday and gave a brief review of President Barack Obama’s speech at the event earlier in the day. Jaafari said he thought the speech, which outlined America’s rationale for launching airstrikes in Syria against the jihadist group Islamic State, was “good as a whole.” But Jaafari said there was one “small part” of Obama’s speech that he took issue with.
“President Obama’s speech was indeed, as a whole, a good one. It went in the right direction,” Jaafari said. “It corroborated what we were saying for years, that we are facing terrorism in Syria and Iraq as well as all over the whole Middle East.”
Though he discussed the speech, Jaafari did not specifically refer to the airstrikes.
Islamic State (which is also known as ISIS or ISIL) is one of many groups who have been fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Jaafari, who represents the regime, expressed support for US efforts to combat Islamic State and another jihadist opposition group, Jabhat al Nusra. However, he criticised US efforts to arm other more moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, which began in conjunction with the strikes this month.
“The approach used by President Obama was a rather constructive one except in the small part where he contradicted himself by saying USA, I mean his administration, would support what he called ‘the Syrian opposition’ to fight ISIS, and ISIL, and Jabhat al Nusra in Syria,” said Jaafari, adding, “He shouldn’t have said that in this way.”
In addition to ISIS, the Obama administration has said the strikes are named at the Khorasan group, which the White House has described as an Al Qaeda affiliate. Both of these groups are opposed to Assad.
Jaafari said the US should make the Assad regime its “partner” as it fights jihadist groups in Syria.
“We are a legitimate government. Nobody has the authorization, or the permission, or the power to work against a legitimate government elected by its own people,” Jaafari said. “We need to be a full-fledged partner while combatting terrorism in Syria, and Iraq, and elsewhere.”
The Syrian delegation arrives at the UN just over a year after it launched a chemical weapons attack outside the capital city of Damascus that killed over 1,500 people and threatened to condemn the Assad regime to even greater international isolation.
Jaafari also criticised other Middle Eastern nations that have partnered with the US in its efforts to combat ISIS as sponsors of terrorism.
“USA needs reliable partners. They don’t need Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey because these regimes are the ones who funded terrorsim in Syria, and Iraq, and all over the area,” said Jaafari. “These regimes are the ones who spread terrorism — religious terrorism in the area, such as ISIS, ISIL, Jabhat al Nusra.”
Jaafari argued working with those countries amounted to being a “terrorist.”
“So, you cannot be a terrorist while fighting terrorism,” Jaafari said. “This is why I’m saying USA needs reliable partners such as Syria, Iraq, and the other secular governments in the area.”
After making his brief statement to reporters, Jaafari departed. Business Insider asked him questions about whether he thoguht Syria would be able to coordinate with the US on the strikes, a recent rumoured chemical weapons attack launched by the regime, or Assad’s oft-criticised human rights record.
Updated at 1:03 p.m.
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