Assad Says Only 'Ballot Box' Can Decide his Future, Describes Erdogan as 'Caliph'إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Syrian President Bashar Assad said his future could only be decided through the ballot box, in an interview with Russian television where he warned the country could face a protracted war.
Assad told state-run Russia Today (RT) that whether the president can "stay or leave" is a "popular issue" and "the only way (it) can be done (is) through the ballot boxes.”
"It is not about what we hear. It is about what we can get through that box and that box will tell any president to stay or leave very simply," said the president, speaking in English.
In the interview with a Russia Today correspondent recorded in Damascus, he said the conflict with rebels could be "a long-term war" if they continued to receive support from abroad.
Assad described as "unprecedented" the support which he said the rebels were receiving from abroad in terms of arms, money and political backing.
"So, you have to expect that it is going to be a tough war and a difficult war. You do not expect a small country like Syria to defeat all those countries that have been fighting us through proxies just in days or weeks."
If the support for rebels from abroad stopped, he said, "I can tell that in weeks we can finish everything."
"But as long as you have a continuous supply in terrorists, armaments, logistics and everything else, it is going to be a long-term war."
But Assad denied that the country was in civil war as such conflicts should be "based on ethnic problems or sectarian problems".
"You have divisions, but division does not mean civil war," he added.
Assad lashed out at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of behaving like an Ottoman sultan and thinking he is a "caliph.”
Ties between the one-time allies Syria and Turkey have soured dramatically over the conflict between Assad's regime and rebels openly supported by Ankara that activists say has now claimed 37,000 lives.
"He (Erdogan) personally thinks that he is the new sultan of the Ottoman (empire) and he can control the region as it was during the Ottoman empire, under a new umbrella," Assad told Russia Today television.
"In his heart he thinks he is a caliph," said Assad, referring to the title used by leaders of the Islamic world from the early Arab Islamic dynasties up to the Ottoman empire.
Assad said that the mentality of Erdogan -- who leads the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- was to blame for collapse of relations between the Damascus regime and Ankara.
Erdogan has shifted his policy on Syria from "zero problems to zero friends," said Assad, who noted that he last spoke with Erdogan in May 2011.
Assad accused Erdogan of wanting the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the Middle East region so that "he (Erdogan) can guarantee his political future.”