Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has hit out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an exclusive interview with Kathimerini, accusing him of being “affiliated” with the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist organization and calling Turkish troops who occupied the Syrian enclave of Afrin “terrorists.”
In a wide-ranging interview in Damascus with Kathimerini’s executive editor Alexis Papachelas, Assad also denied that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons against civilians, saying that Syria gave up its chemical arsenal in 2013.
“The Western narrative started after the victory of the Syrian Army, not before,” he said. “If you look at the videos, it’s completely fake,” he said. “It’s a farce, it’s a play, it’s a very primitive play, just to attack the Syrian Army.”
Asked about his relationship with Erdogan, which has deteriorated since Turkish troops entered Afrin, Assad distinguished “between the Turks in general and Erdogan.”
“Erdogan is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe he’s not organized, but his affiliation is toward that ideology, I call it this dark ideology,” he said. He added that Erdogan is “implementing the American agenda.”
As for US President Donald Trump, who has called Assad an “animal,” the Syrian leader said it did not bother him “because I deal with the situation as a politician, as a president.”
Describing Trump as unpredictable and inconsistent, he shot down the latter’s narrative regarding Syria.
“We all know very clearly that the only mission the United States has been carrying out in Syria is supporting the terrorists,” Assad said in response to Trump’s “mission accomplished” comment after missile strikes on Syria.
He took issue with all foreign powers that have intervened in Syria. “The Turkish, French, whoever, they are all enemies; as long as they came to Syria illegally, they are our enemies,” he said.
On the other hand, he lauded the role of Syria’s ally Russia, which he said was pivotal in averting a possible escalation.
He described the upheaval in the Middle East as a new type of “world war.” “Maybe it’s not a full-blown third world war, but it is a world war, maybe in a different way,” he said. “And I hope we don’t see any direct conflict between these superpowers, because that is where things are going to get out of control for the rest of the world.”
Assad expressed confidence that the strife in Syria will end eventually. “Someday, we’re going to end this conflict and we’re going to reunify Syria under the control of the government,” he said. “When? I cannot say. I hope it’s going to be soon.”
In any case, the cost of rebuilding Syria will be steep. “Hundreds of billions, the minimum is 200 billion, and according to some estimates it’s about 400 billion dollars,” Assad said.
Asked whether he would sacrifice his position if necessary for a political solution, he indicated that he could only remain leader with popular support. “When I feel that the Syrian people do not want me to stay anymore, of course I have to leave without any hesitation,” he said.
For the full text of the interview click: http://www.ekathimerini.com/228495/article/ekathimerini/news/chemical-attack-accusations-fake-assad-tells-kathimerini-in-exclusive-interview