Al-Qaeda ‘legitimizes’ al-Assad: FM Davutoğlu
Ahmet Davutoğlu made a press statement before leaving for Paris for the Friends of Syria meeting on Jan. 12. AA photoThe presence of al-Qaeda in Syria is beginning to lend legitimacy to the Bashar al-Assad government, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Jan. 10, adding that both were not only benefiting each other, but supporting one another as well.
The minister clarified his earlier remarks that the incorrect practices of radical groups had made the al-Assad government seem less evil, stressing that Turkey had not changed its position.
He said he was surprised when he read newspapers quoting him as saying he saw al-Assad as less evil than al-Qaeda. “I didn’t say less evil. What I say is that some circles are trying to show al-Assad as less evil than al-Qaeda,” Davutoğlu told reporters before leaving for Paris for the Friends of Syria meeting on Jan. 12.
“The al-Assad regime has not fought al-Qaeda yet. The Free Syrian Army is fighting both regime forces and al-Qaeda. The existence of al-Qaeda creates an area of legitimacy for the regime and the pressures of the regime create [one] for al-Qaeda. Thus they benefit and support each other,” the foreign minister said, adding that the al-Assad government was “the source of all evils in Syria.
“If the al-Assad regime had not applied such intense pressure during the past two years, no groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) could have emerged,” he said.
Davutoğlu also said the meeting of the core group of the Friends of Syria aimed to stop Damascus’ armed assault, take steps to provide humanitarian aid and discuss the upcoming Geneva II meeting.
The minister also underlined the threat of starvation in Syria, saying some 15 Syrian people had died of hunger.
Meanwhile, on the ground, nearly 500 people, among them at least 85 civilians, have been killed in a week of fighting pitting Syrian rebels against jihadists in the north of the strife-torn country.
“We have documented the killing of 482 people in the fighting, 85 civilians, 240 members of the rebel brigades and 157 members of ISIL,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Director Rami Abdel Rahman. Among the civilians and rebels killed were 42 hostages who were executed in Aleppo by the ISIL. Rebels also executed 47 ISIL members, mainly in the Idlib province in northwestern Syria, Abdel Rahman said.