Middle EastSyriaTurkey

Erdogan army fighting in Syria, says President Assad



Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says an army led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fighting in Syria alongside Takfiri militants.

“Today, the war against Erdogan and against Saudi Arabia is a war against terrorists. The Turkish army, which is not even Turkish, is Erdogan’s army that is fighting today in Syria,” Assad told Russia’s RIA news agency.

He said the Turkish president allows the terrorists “to move into Turkish territory, to carry out maneuvers with tanks.”

The Syrian president added that Erdogan trades oil stolen by Daesh, adding that the Turkish troops “carry out artillery attacks against the Syrian army – when it moves close – in order to help the terrorists.”

Assad also pledged to thwart Erdogan’s plans in Syria and to respond to the Turkish aggression through defeating terrorists fighting in his country.

“They are terrorists and when we attack these terrorists in Syria, this leads to Erdogan’s direct defeat,” he said.

However, he stressed that the “Turkish people are not against Syria, are not hostile towards Syria.”

The Syrian leader also said that the relations between the two countries will be “good” if the Turkish president “does not interfere” in Syria’s affairs.

He further said that Saudi Arabia and Turkey have “crossed all possible red lines” from the very beginning of the Syrian war.

Assad also described the Saudi and Turkish support to terrorists and providing them with weapons as “aggression.”

“This concerns not only individuals, he finances them [terrorists] through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and through Turkey itself, of course,” Assad said.

Syrian soldiers rest at a neighborhood in the historical city of Palmyra in central Syria on March 29, 2016. (AFP photo)

‘Snap elections’ possible 

Assad also expressed his openness to holding early presidential elections if the people of his country call for it.

“This depends on the Syrian people’s stance, on whether there is a popular will to hold early presidential elections. If there is such a will, this is not a problem for me. It is natural to respond to the will of the people and not to that of certain opposition forces. This issue concerns every Syrian citizen because every citizen votes for the president,” he said.

He highlighted that such a move needs “the Syrian public opinion and not the opinion of the government or the president.”

The Syrian president noted that the idea of early presidential elections was not included in the current political process. The country is to hold parliamentary elections on April 13.

“It has been proposed to hold parliamentary elections after the new constitution [has been adopted]. These elections will show the balance of powers on the political arena. Then, a new government will be formed in accordance with the representation of political forces in the new parliament… As for presidential elections, that is an entirely different issue.”

He also recommended a president directly elected by the people and not the parliament, “so that the elections are as free as possible from the influence of various political forces and depend, overall, only on the people’s sentiment.”

He said the technical details of a snap presidential race have not been discussed yet “because the issue of early presidential elections has not been raised.”

But he stressed that “this has to do with procedures that would allow everyone to come to the ballot boxes controlled by the Syrian state.”

“Every Syrian citizen anywhere in the world has the right to vote,” said Assad.

Syria is in the midst of deadly militancy with government forces and allies, backed by Russia’s air cover, continuing to battle terrorist groups across the Arab country. Forces loyal to Assad have managed over the past few weeks to recapture major positions from Daesh and al-Nusra Front in the north.

More than 470,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced in nearly five years of fighting in Syria.

Syrians favor Russia military presence

Elsewhere in his remarks, Assad said the Syrian people want the Russian military contingent to stay in their country.

“Inviting a foreign contingent … is a right of any state,” he said, adding, “Therefore, nobody can forbid it, except in cases when it is directly spelled out in the constitution.”

He also ruled out the deployment of United Nations peace keepers in his country, saying “it’s unrealistic because such forces, as a rule, act on the basis of international agreements” that “should have the approval of some countries. What countries? In this case, there are no other countries. There is only the Syrian government – one entity.”

Meanwhile, the Syrian leader expressed his readiness to accept any militant ready to give up arms in order to stop bloodshed in Syria.

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