Assad says Erdogan using coup to implement 'extremist agenda'

Assad says Erdogan using coup to implement 'extremist agenda'
3 min read
21 July, 2016
Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied involvement in Friday's coup attempt in Turkey, but said President Erdogan was using the coup to further his 'extremist agenda'
Bashar al-Assad has launched a war on Syria after the 2011 uprising [AFP]

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has accused Turkey's president of using a failed coup as a pretext to implement an "extremist agenda".

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a fierce critic of Assad throughout the Syria's five-year war and allegedly armed rebel groups fighting regime forces.

On Friday, elements of the Turkish armed forces launched a surprise coup to overthrow the Erdogan's government, before being quickly repelled by the military and demonstrations from the public.

Since then, over 50,000 people have been arrested, sacked or suspended from their jobs as the government tries to uncover coup sympathisers.

There had been rumours that the Syrian regime could have played a role in the coup. However, the chief suspect remains cleric Fethullah Gulen who commands strong support in Turkey despite his self-imposed exile in the US.

During an interview with a Cuban state agency, Assad denied the rumours of Syrian involvement in the plot against Erdogan.

"We don't interfere, we don't make the mistake to say that Erdogan should go or stay. This is a Turkish issue and the Turkish people have to decide," he told the state media.

However, he did accuse Erdogan of exploiting the coup to increase his own powerbase.

"What is more important than the coup d'etat itself - we have to look at the procedures and steps that are being taken by Erdogan and his coterie recently - (Erdogan) used the coup d'etat in order to implement his own extremist agenda - Muslim Brotherhood agenda - within Turkey, and that is dangerous for Turkey and for the neighbouring countries, including Syria," Assad said.

Assad and Erdogan were once close friends, but Syria's war has put them on opposite sides of the conflict.

Assad has accused Turkey of supporting "terrorists" in Syria, while Erdogan has blamed the regime of implementing wholesale massacres of civilians.

[The coup crackdown] is dangerous for Turkey and for the neighbouring countries, including Syria
- Bashar al-Assad

Syria's main opposition group - the Syrian National Coalition - is based in Turkey, and the country hosts up to 3 million Syrian refugees who have fled regime bombing.

On Friday evening when it appeared that the coup was successful, Syrian regime supporters fired their guns in the air anticipating Erdogan's downfall in Damascus and Latakia.

Several people were said to be accidently killed in the celebratory gunfire.

This comes as the UN attempts to find a road map to end the Syrian war which has left almost half a million dead.

Assad - whose forces have repeatedly ignored UN ceasefires - used the interview to condemn the international body as "an American arm".

"Those [UN] mediators are not independent," he said, referring to the UN's current peace envoy Staffan de Mistura, and his predecessors Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan.

"They reflect either the pressure from the Western countries, or sometimes the dialogue between the main powers, mainly Russia and the United States," he added.

"There is no United Nations role in the Syrian conflict, there is only Russian and American dialogue."

Agencies contributed to this story.