Syrian President Assad raises doubts over Turkey’s sincerity



Syrian opposition demonstrators seen during a protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad held outside the Syrian consulate in ?stanbul in late July.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has put special emphasis on Turkey while warning against any foreign military intervention as he questioned the intentions of the neighboring country in dealing with the crisis in Syria.
“In general, we always meet with officials from different countries, we take advice, if they have experience we discuss it, especially countries that resemble us in terms of society, but when it comes to the decision, we don’t allow any country in the world, near or far, to interfere in Syria’s decisions,” Assad was quoted as saying in response to a question on bilateral relations with Turkey during an interview with state-run television on Sunday.

In the interview, Assad assumed several possibilities for the Turkish officials’ statements, citing that of sincerity, saying, “In this case we highly appreciate others’ sincerity on Syria,” the Syrian news agency SANA reported.

“It may be a kind of concern that any defect in Syria will affect Turkey and this is normal. The third possibility is that the reason behind these statements is acting as the guide or instructor or the role player at the expense of the Syrian issue. This matter is totally rejected from any official anywhere in the world, including Turkey,” Assad said.

Turkish leaders who once backed Assad sound increasingly frustrated with the Syrian leader in the same way they became frustrated with Muammar Gaddafi after trying to mediate in the Libyan civil war.

No country has proposed against Syria actions like those that NATO forces have carried out in support of Libyan rebels seeking to topple Muammar Gaddafi, but the West has called on Assad to step down and Washington has imposed new sanctions.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on Monday declined to comment on Assad’s latest remarks concerning Turkey.

The Syrian issue was also a key subject during a lengthy telephone conversation between Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday.

Erdo?an stopped his convoy for 35 minutes on ?stanbul’s busy E-5 highway to talk to the Iranian president, news reports said. They discussed bilateral relations and regional developments, including most notably the situation in Syria, a statement published on the Prime Ministry Press Center’s website said.

Erdo?an encouraged Ahmadinejad to assume a joint regional stance towards Syria as he urged the Iranian leader to help find a solution concerning Syria together with the other regional countries, officials told Today’s Zaman.

According to Iranian news agency IRNA, Ahmadinejad “expressed gratitude to Erdo?an for voicing opposition to the US-led Western alliance of NATO’s military invasions, saying that foreign meddling in regional matters only exacerbates the state of affairs.”

The political crisis in Syria has apparently led to tension between Turkey and Iran. While Turkey has stepped up its criticism of Assad over a deadly crackdown on anti-regime protests, Iran defends the Syrian regime and says foreign powers should stay out of Syria’s internal matters.

A recently drafted report by the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) suggests that Iran has been influential in disrupting Syria’s confidence in Turkey by disseminating anti-Turkish propaganda, saying that Turkey supposedly favors the United States over Syria and provides arms to opposition groups that are trying to topple the Assad regime.

“This statement looks to be influenced by Iran. Assad might be bothered by Syrian opposition meetings in Antalya and ?stanbul but he has to remember that Turkey supports non-violent actors that will make a transition in Syria easier and actually helps Assad in the long run,” Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, a professor of international relations at the Ankara-based Gazi University, told Today’s Zaman on Monday when asked to comment on Assad’s remarks on Turkey.

(Göksel Seçilmi? from Today’s Zaman Ankara office contributed to this report.)

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