Introduction — April 6, 2013
There is a notable difference in the overall thrust of the following two reports. We leave it to readers to evaluate for themselves but the Washington Post article omits much of what is reported by the Voice of Russia.
Even though the two articles both cover the same interview, the Washington Post report seems almost to have undergone some sort of censorship.
Syrian president warns of ‘domino effect’ if regime falls
Bassem Mroue and Susan Fraser — Washington Post April 6, 2013
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned in comments broadcast Friday that the fall of his government or the breakup of his country will cause a “domino effect” that will fuel Middle East instability for years. It was his sharpest warning yet about the potential for Syria’s civil war to affect neighboring states.
In Moscow, Russia’s president said the Syrian conflict has become “a massacre” that must be stopped through peace talks and repeated the Kremlin’s firm rejection of calls for Assad’s ouster.
The Syrian regime is under growing pressure from an increasingly effective rebel movement that has managed to pry much of northern Syria away from the government and has made headway recently in the south, capturing territory and military bases.
In the interview with the Turkish TV station Ulusal Kanal aired Friday, Assad accused his neighbors of stoking the revolt against his rule, saying, “We are surrounded by countries that help terrorists and allow them to enter Syria.” But he warned that those countries may eventually pay a price.
“Everybody knows that if the disturbances in Syria reach the point of country’s breakup, or terrorist forces control Syria, or if the two cases happen, then this will immediately spill over into neighboring countries first, and later there will be a domino effect that will reach countries across the Middle East,” he said.
The president also used the interview to quash rumors that he had been killed by one of his guards in the capital, Damascus, saying he is living as usual in Syria and is not hiding in underground shelters.
Russia, a close Assad ally, has shielded Damascus from U.N. sanctions and largely has stood by the regime, although it has also signaled that it is not tied to his remaining in power. At the same time, it has refused to back calls for Assad to step down, and has instead pushed for talks with the opposition.
Speaking to the German public television network ARD in remarks released by the Kremlin on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated Moscow’s firm rejection of calls for Assad’s ouster.
“We believe that it is necessary to bring everyone to the negotiation table,” he said.
In Syria on Friday, a barrage of rockets slammed into the contested Barzeh district on the northeastern edge of Damascus, killing at least five people, while rebel fighters overran an army checkpoint near the southern border with Jordan, activists said.
Assad accuses Turkey of arming rebels
The Voice of Russia — April 5, 2013
Syrian president Bashar al Assad has been highly critical of the Turkish prime minster in an interview with Turkish TV. Syria has repeatedly accused Turkey of arming and aiding rebel groups.
Syrian president Bashar al Assad has branded the Turkish prime minister a liar in an interview with Turkish TV which is due to be aired this evening.
In the interview with the Turkish opposition channel Ulusal Kanal, Assad said Reccep Erdogan had “not said a single word of truth since the beginning of the crisis in Syria”.
Assad also dismissed the Arab League’s recent decision to give Syria’s place to the Syrian opposition, saying real legitimacy did not come from organisations or foreign officials.
Malik al Abdeh is a Syrian journalist based in the UK.
“That TV channel is against the Turkish prime minister who has taken a strong position against Assad. So Assad is reaching out towards allies in Turkey to give them a media coup in return for positive coverage of the Syrian regime,” he said.
Malik al Abdeh says Assad is trying to exploit concerns in Turkey over the country’s strong support for rebels in Syria.
Many of the arms supplied to Syrian rebels by Gulf states such as Qatar are reported to pass through Turkey.
“There is public opinion that says that Turkey was perhaps too hasty in its support for the opposition and it may have played a more important role by sitting on the fence slightly or at least by being more objective in its relations with Bashar al Assad,” he said.
“At the moment Turkey is very much seen as on the side of the opposition and that has taken away from its ability to be a negotiator or a broker of a ceasefire or some sort of peace process in Syria.”
But Barbaros Devetoglu, Voice of Russia’s correspondent in Turkey, says Assad’s interview is unlikely to make waves in Turkey because the public’s attention is focused on government efforts to reach a deal with Kurdish rebels in Turkey.
“It’s a very small and anti-government channel so I don’t believe there will be any impact at all. And plus the main story in Turkey at the moment is about the peace process,” he said.
Barbaros Devetoglu says big Turkish media groups are also likely to ignore the Assad interview because they don’t want to antagonise the Turkish government.
“It’s kind of like a vendetta between the Turkish prime minister and Assad,” he said.
“If a journalist uses part of this interview, it means that that journalist or that newspaper or TV station are actually against the government policy, which is a particularly hard thing to do right now in Turkey.”
Malik al Abdeh says that under Turkey’s ‘zero problems’ foreign policy towards its neighbours, Turkey and Syria enjoyed a close relationship before splitting acrimoniously as the Syrian crisis escalated.
“Turkey pumped billions of dollars into the Syrian economy in the last 10 years before this uprising,” he said.
“Certainly Erdogan was one of those people who helped rehabilitate Bashar al Assad after years of political isolation after the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. So this radical u-turn by Erdogan has been criticised.”
Meanwhile inside Syria itself, Malik al Abdeh says that neither the government nor the rebels are ready to hold talks despite the mounting death toll.
“Both sides believe that they can win militarily so why share the spoils when you can have them all to yourself? This is the big problem,” he said.
The UN says more than 70,000 people have died in the conflict, while more than a million Syrians have fled abroad and nearly 4 million are displaced within the country.