Syria’s Assad says he does not want Turkey as an ‘enemy’

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Thursday said he did not want to make an “enemy” of neighboring Turkey, despite the latter’s invasion having led to a confrontation between their forces.

Assad said that Turkish President Recep Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself was an “enemy” due to policies hostile to Syria and opposed by most of his country’s political elite.

But “we must ensure that we don’t turn Turkey into an enemy and here comes the role of friends,” such as Russia and Iran, the president said in a pre-recorded interview on state television.

Turkey supports Syrian rebel forces who have battled Assad’s government during the eight-year-long war that has killed more than 370,000 people.

This month Ankara launched an operation on Syria’s northern border against Kurdish forces.

The Kurds spearheaded a US-backed military campaign against ISIS that deprived the terror group of their final slither of Syrian territory in March this year, but Ankara views the Kurdish forces as “terrorists”.

Abandoned by their ally Washington – which early this month pulled its own troops back from the border area, effectively allowing Turkey to attack – the Kurds turned to the Syrian regime, which swiftly deployed and reclaimed swathes of territory it lost years ago.

Turkey last week struck a deal with Russia to halt the weeks-long invasion.

The agreement calls for the withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish fighters from areas along Turkey’s border with Syria, with a view to setting up a “safe zone” where Ankara plans to repatriate some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it currently hosts.

Joint Turkish-Russian patrols are due to start in areas near the Syrian border on Friday, after the Kremlin said that Syrian Kurdish fighters had withdrawn in accordance with the terms of the deal between Ankara and Moscow.

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