Assad warns of war if political means fail to secure Turkey’s pullout from N. Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday warned that war would be the only option if political means fail to secure Turkey’s troop pullout from northern Syria.

Speaking in an interview with the Syrian national TV, Assad said the recent Turkey-Russia deal on creating a safe zone in northern Syria had been conducive in pulling back Kurdish militia from the border region in coordination with the Syrian army.

“This doesn’t eliminate the negativity of the Turkish occupation,” Assad said, adding that if all political means are exhausted to push the Turkish forces to leave, there would be no other choice but war.

Turkey launched an military incursion into northern Syria in early October, in a bid to drive Kurdish fighters out of the border region, following the pullout of U.S. troops. Turkey and Russia, a major supporter of Syria, reached a deal last Tuesday to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw 30 km away from the border and conduct joint Turkey-Russia patrols in the region.

Assad insisted that the deal is only “temporary,” without elaborating.

The Syrian leader said the entry of the Syrian army into the Kurdish-held areas is not only for countering the Turkish attacks, but also will restore the government rule there.

He added that the return of the Syrian government to all Kurdish-held areas will be gradual and might take some time.

“Our policy should be rational and gradual taking into account the facts, but the final goal is for sure the return of the Syrian state’s control” over all Kurdish-held areas, Assad said.

Regarding the presence of the U.S. forces in Syria, Assad said that when the Syrians are united against the occupation, the U.S. forces will withdraw by themselves “because they will have no chance to remain in Syria.”

On the Syrian constitutional committee, which is holding its first session in Geneva, Assad said the Syrian government would approve any outcome of the committee’s work as long as it’s compatible with the national interest of Syria “even if it is a new constitution.”