UNITED NATIONS - Syria stands with a worldwide effort to combat Islamic State, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday, in a statement to the United Nations that appeared to give tacit approval to U.S. and Arab airstrikes in Syria targeting the militants.
“The Syrian Arab Republic reiterates that it stands with any international effort aimed at fighting and combating terrorism, and stresses that this must be done in full respect of the lives of innocent civilians and within the frame of full respect of national sovereignty, and in conformity with international conventions,” Moualem told the United Nations General Assembly.
Moualem did not specifically condemn the airstrikes, but warned that taking military action while some countries continue to support the militants could create a situation in which “the international community will not exit in decades.”
“Let us together stop this ideology and its exporters, let us simultaneously exert pressure on the countries that joined the coalition led by the United States to stop their support of armed terrorist groups,” Moualem said. “Only they then combating terrorism military becomes viable.”
Syria has repeatedly accused Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of supporting Islamist militant groups during its three-year-old civil war. Those countries deny the allegations, but Western officials say the three countries have in the past aided such groups in Syria.
Islamic State has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq and is accused of massacres and beheadings of civilians and soldiers. So far air strikes by the United States and allies have failed to halt the militants' expansion into new territory.
President Barack Obama has acknowledged that U.S. intelligence underestimated the rise of Islamic State, often also referred to as ISIL or ISIS.
Seeking ‘political solution’ internally
Moualem said the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “striving for a political solution in Syria and in dialog with all honorable national opposition members opposing terrorism in Syria, and among Syrians themselves and on Syrian territory.”
Many Syrian activists and rebels have criticized the United States for focusing on striking Islamic State and other militant groups while doing little to bring down Assad. The conflict started as a peaceful protest movement but, after a government crackdown, turned into a war that has killed at least 190,000 people over more than three years. Fighting still regularly kills nearly 200 people a day.
The Syrian foreign minister, who is also deputy prime minister, made clear his government does not consider the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition and Free Syrian Army to be a credible opposition.
Moualem said his government was open to a political solution with “an opposition that has an impact on the Syrian territory, and has deep roots inside Syria, not in hotels and Western capitals, a national opposition that upholds fighting terrorism as its priority.”
Washington and its European allies no longer recognize Assad's government as the legitimate representative of Syria's people and have said that any political transition there must involve his departure.