Seeking to rebut Syria’s political opposition and its outside supporters, the Syrian foreign minister on Monday equated his country’s brutal conflict to the Sept. 11 attacks and accused the United States of hypocrisy.
“The people of New York have witnessed the devastations of terrorism and were burned with the fire of extremism and bloodshed, the same way we are suffering now in Syria,” he said at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “How can some countries, hit by the same terrorism we are suffering now in Syria, claim to fight terrorism in all parts of the world, while supporting it in my country?”
The assertions by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem were denounced by the United States. In a statement, Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission, called al-Moallem’s assertion “as disingenuous as it is offensive.”
Most of al-Moallem’s speech amounted to a point-by-point rejection of the West’s version of the war in Syria, which began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011 and has morphed into a sectarian civil war that has left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced.
In a reference to a group of Western and Arab countries that support the opposition, al-Moallem said, “They are the ones supporting terrorism in my country, in contradiction of all United Nations resolutions and all human and moral values.” He said some of these countries did not want to recognize that al-Qaida and its affiliates are even fighting in Syria. Al-Moallem ridiculed assertions made by the United States about the existence of a moderate armed opposition in Syria that has repudiated the jihadists and that advocates an inclusive democracy representing all Syrian groups.
“The claims about the existence of moderate militants and extremist militants have become a bad joke,” he said. “Terrorism means only terrorism. It cannot be classified as moderate terrorism and extremist terrorism.”
Al-Moallem appeared to refer obliquely to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus that left hundreds of people dead.
A number of humanitarian agencies, including Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders, along with the United Nations agency that coordinates humanitarian relief, have called on the U.N. Security Council to urge the warring parties to allow the unmolested movement of emergency relief into the country.