Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of lying while harboring rebels fighting his government and cooperating with Israel against Syria.
“Turkey is directly contributing to massacres in Syria,” Assad said in a Damascus interview taped on April 2 and aired today on Turkey’s Ulusal Kanal TV. “Turkey’s hands have been stained with blood in Syria.”
Ties between Erdogan and Assad, who vacationed together with their families in 2008, have deteriorated since the Turkish leader urged Assad to stop massacring his own people and step down. The downing of a Turkish reconnaissance jet by Syrian forces in June and the deaths of five Turks from an errant mortar round from Syria in October escalated tensions.
In the interview, Assad accused Turkey of harboring Syrian rebels and allowing them to infiltrate his country. Turkey, which has opened its doors to more than 300,000 Syrian refugees, denies arming Syrian rebels.
A Syrian rebel group, the Battalion of the Martyrs of Douma, at the end of March claimed to have killed Assad. Asked about the sounds of shelling in Damascus, Assad said “thousands, maybe tens of thousands of rebels infiltrate Syria from neighboring countries, you can hear those sounds anywhere in the country.”
In February, the insurgents stepped up their attacks on Damascus to take control of the capital and topple Assad, who said the war in Syria was over a country that’s refusing to bow to the demands of the West.
The Syrian capital is now the epicenter of fighting that has killed more than 70,000 people over the past two years, displaced at least 5 million more and shattered the economy.
Assad was cited in the interview as saying that Erdogan “is lying,” adding: “He hasn’t told a word of truth since the Syrian crisis began” two years ago. Israel’s March 22 apology to Turkey over the 2010 killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound ship by Israeli commandos was proof that Erdogan and Israel had struck an alliance against Syria, Assad said.
“The fire in Syria might burn Turkey as well,” he said.
The U.S., Germany and the Netherlands have each deployed two Patriot missile defense batteries near the Syrian border to defend North Atlantic Treaty Organization member Turkey against a possible missile attack from Syria.
To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com