Syria hits back after Erdogan calls Assad ‘terrorist’

Bashar Al Assad (File Photo/IANS)

Ankara/Damascus, Dec 28 (IANS) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reignited a war of words with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad by calling him a “terrorist” who has no place in negotiations over the country’s future, with Damascus hitting back and accusing the Turkish leader of being “responsible” for spilling the blood of Syrians.

Erdogan said on Wednesday it was “absolutely impossible” to move ahead on Syrian peace talks while Assad remains in power, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu. He made the comments after a closed-door meeting with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis where he is on an official visit.

Erdogan called Assad, who has clung to power during the protracted conflict that has wracked his nation for the past seven years, “a terrorist involved in state terrorism”. He asked how anyone could “embrace the future with the President of a Syria who killed close to one million of its citizens”.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry shot back at the remarks, accusing Erdogan of being “responsible” for spilling the blood of the Syrian people, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

“The entry of the Turkish forces to the Syrian territory reveals one image of the Turkey’s support to takfiri terrorism,” it said.

The statement slammed what it characterized as Erdogan’s “paranoia and illusions of the past” which “made him forget that his old empire has vanished and that the free people of the world have the choice to make their national decisions and defend their sovereignty and they will not allow Erdogan to interfere in their affairs”.

The Turkish leader’s remarks came as aid workers evacuated the first of 29 people who had been trapped in the besieged Syrian region of Eastern Ghouta.

Previously, Erdogan had said that around 500 people — including 170 women and children — required “urgent humanitarian aid”, according to Turkey’s TRT and Russia’s Sputnik news agencies.

Assad had repeatedly refused aid into the enclave and evacuations out of Eastern Ghouta. It’s one of Syria’s last rebel strongholds, but it has been under siege by regime forces for more than four years, reports said.

The Syrian ministry further said that “Erdogan misleads the public opinion with his political bubbles in a desperate attempt to absolve himself from crimes committed against Syrians through providing unlimited support to the terrorist groups”.