Turkey will pay heavy price for supporting Syrian rebels, Assad warns
President accuses Erdogan of shedding blood of thousands of Syrians
Free Syrian Army fighters move a mortar in Ain-Assan village in Aleppo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Molhem Barakat
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has said Turkey will pay a “heavy price” for funnelling into Syria radical jihadi fighters from 80 countries and harbouring Syrian defectors and rebels seeking his overthrow.
In an interview with Turkey’s Halka TV channel, he castigated Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for shedding the “blood of thousands of Syrians and . . . for the destruction of Syria’s infrastructure.
“It is not possible to put terrorism in your pocket and use it as a card because it is like a scorpion which won’t hesitate to sting you at the first opportunity. “In the near future, these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey.” Dr Assad also said it is too early to announce whether he will stand for re-election in 2014. “If I have a feeling that the Syrian people want me to be president . . . I will run for the post. If the answer is no, I will not run and I don’t see a problem in that.”
His interview coincided with the recapture by Syrian troops of the strategic town of Khanasser, located on the supply route linking central Syria to Aleppo. The town had been held by opposition forces since August.
Pro-government daily Al-Watan said the resumption of control “opens the way to allow aid to reach” Aleppo, which has been besieged by rebels and jihadis for 14 months.
Saudi-supplied anti-tank weapons transiting Jordan to the western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army have been sold to or captured by al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, undermining the programme to arm approved factions and denying such arms to jihadis. Jordan has closed its borders to such traffic.
Concern over the acquisition of shoulder-fired missiles by jihadis was heightened recently when 13 such groups rejected the National Coalition and negotiations with the government.