POST TIME: 2 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Assad says he does not want Turkey as an ‘enemy’
AFP, Damascus

Assad says he does not want Turkey as an ‘enemy’

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Thursday said he did not want to make an “enemy” of neighbouring Turkey despite the stand-off between their forces in the north of the country.

Assad said however that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself was an “enemy” due to policies hostile to Syria and opposed by most of his country’s political elite. “We must ensure that we don’t turn Turkey into an enemy and here comes the role of friends” such as Russia and Iran, the president said in a pre-recorded interview on state television.

Turkey supports Syrian rebel forces who have battled Assad’s government during the eight-year-long war that has killed more than 370,000 people. This month Ankara launched an operation across Syria’s northern border against Kurdish forces.

The Kurds spearheaded a US-backed military campaign against the Islamic State group that deprived the jihadists’ of their final slither of Syrian territory in March this year but Ankara views the Kurdish forces as “terrorists”.

Abandoned by their ally Washington—which early this month pulled its own troops back from the border area, effectively allowing Turkey to attack—the Kurds turned to Damascus which swiftly deployed and reclaimed swathes of territory it lost years ago. Assad said the deployment is a prelude to reinstating complete central government control over the region in a process he said would be “gradual” and would “respect new realities on the ground.”