Syrian official slams Turkey 'aggression'

AP News
Posted: Oct 30, 2014 11:03 AM
Syrian official slams Turkey 'aggression'

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad's political adviser accused Turkey on Thursday of committing "aggression" against the country by allowing rebels to cross into the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani to battle the Islamic State group.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Bouthaina Shaaban said the move was intended for Turkey to expand its influence in Syria by sending in anti-Assad fighters.

"I see that Turkey is continuing in its role of aggression against Syria and its very dangerous role in the region," Shaaban said.

The remarks came a day after Turkey allowed 50 armed Free Syrian Army members to cross into embattled Kobani in a push to help Kurdish fighters turn the tide against militants of the Islamic State group besieging the town.

The FSA is a very loose coalition of rebels groups fighting to topple Assad. The group's political leadership is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from the fighting. There are various factions within the group whose ideologies are constantly shifting, but generally range from mainstream moderates to deeply conservative Muslims.

Turkey is also allowing some 150 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters into Kobani, where they are expected by the end of the day. A first group of ten fighters entered the town Thursday.

Shaaban suggested Turkey was trying to revive the influence it once enjoyed as the dominant power of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire that collapsed early last century.

"It's very dangerous role in the region is motivated by their Ottoman ambition. (It) does not really target saving the Kurds," she said.

Shaaban's comments suggested the deep bitterness between the once-friendly neighbors that they could not even see eye-to-eye on a policy for fighting militants of the Islamic State group, which both Syria and Turkey see as a problem.

Syria's government for years had characterized the rebellion against Assad as a problem of fighting terrorism, a point they made repeatedly in Geneva where two international conferences were held this year to try and resolve the crisis.

"It was the Syrian government, who in January and February 2014 called on the international (community) to fight terror inside and outside Syria, so that we reach stability and security," Shaaban said.

Critics say the issue of terrorism only emerged years after the crisis began, and that the Syrian government has refused to make any serious political reforms that might have addressed the people's demands.

The uprising began in March 2011 as largely peaceful demonstrations against Assad's rule, but plunged into armed rebellion after the government violently cracked down on protests.

Since then, regional governments and the West have helped arm and train rebels. Iran and Russia have chiefly helped Assad's government.

Hard-line Islamic militants, including from al-Qaida and the extremist Islamic State group have also entered the messy, layered conflict with regional and international undertones.

Shaaban described the Kurds as fighting terrorism, saying the Islamic State was "part of the terrorism that we warned against for years now."

The adviser said the Syrian government still welcomed a negotiated solution to the conflict, but said so far, there were no political initiatives being discussed.