Syrian president tells Turkish media it’s too early to say whether he’ll run for re-election.
Syrian President Bashar Assad told Turkey it will pay a heavy price for backing rebels fighting to oust him, accusing it of harboring “terrorists” along its border who would soon turn against their hosts.
In an interview with Turkey’s Halk TV due to be broadcast later on Friday, Assad called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “bigoted” and said Turkey was allowing terrorists to cross into Syria to attack the army and Syrian civilians.
“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,” Assad said, according to a transcript published on Halk TV’s website.
“In the near future, these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey and Turkey will pay a heavy price for it.”
Turkey, which shares a 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Syria and has NATO’s second largest deployable military force, is one of Assad’s fiercest critics and a staunch supporter of the opposition, although it denies arming the rebels.
It shelters a quarter of the 2 million people who have fled Syria and has often seen the conflict spill across its frontier, responding in kind when mortars and shells fired from Syria have hit its soil.
Along with Western allies opposed to Assad, it has grown alarmed by divisions among the rebels and the deepening influence of radical Islamists in Syria.
Assad: Too early to say if he’ll run again
During the interview, Assad also said it was still too early to say whether he will run for re-election in next year’s presidential vote. He said “the picture will be clearer” in the next four to five months because Syria is going though “rapid” changes on the ground.
Assad has been president since 2000; his second seven-year-term ends in mid-2014.
Syria’s opposition wants him to step down and hand over power to a transitional government, with full powers until new elections are held.
Despite the civil war, he still enjoys wide support among minorities, including Christians and Alawites, members of the Shiite Islam sect.