NEW YORK (JTA) – Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem called on U.N. member states to expand the fight against ISIS to all groups fighting the Syrian regime.
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Moualem sought to cast the Syrian civil war as a struggle between a democratically elected government in Damascus and foreign-backed terrorist groups.
“Syria reiterates that it stands with any international effort aimed at fighting and combating terrorism,” Moualem said, referring to the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, the Islamic extremist group that has captured wide swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.
But Moualem accused the United States and its allies of double standards by picking and choosing which groups it will bomb among the motley assortment of opponents fighting the Syrian regime (and each other) and which groups it will support. Though Moualem did not identify any of the groups by name, it was a reference to Syrian opposition groups that the United States is equipping and training, such as the Free Syrian Army.
The Obama administration has made clear that it seeks to bolster so-called moderate opponents of the Syrian opposition as a “counterweight to the terrorists of ISIL and the brutality of the Assad regime,” as Obama put it in his Sept. 24 General Assembly speech, using another name for ISIS.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has been implicated in chemical and bombing attacks against Syrian civilians. In all, an estimated 200,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war.
Moualem insisted in his speech that the Assad regime is the sole rightful representative of the Syrian people because of elections Assad won in June with 89 percent of the vote. Western observers dismissed the vote as a farce.
“Those who look forward to a political solution in Syria must first respect the Syrian people’s will,” Moualem said. “They chose the president for the first time in Syria’s history in multiparty elections with international monitors from several countries that witnessed the integrity, transparency and enthusiasm of the people to participate in the elections.”
Moualem also used his U.N. speech to criticize sanctions against Iran, North Korea, Belarus and Cuba.
He condemned Israel for its continued occupation of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequently annexed, and affirmed that “the Palestinian issue is the central issue of the Syrian people.”