The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has said Turkey will pay a heavy price for backing rebels fighting against him, and accused it of harbouring "terrorists" who, he claimed, would soon turn on their hosts.
Turkey-Syria ties were once close, but have deteriorated over Ankara\’s staunch support for rebels fighting to overthrow Assad\’s government.
In an interview aired Friday on Turkey\’s Halk TV, Assad accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of allowing extremists from over 80 countries to cross the border. He said this resulted in the deaths of "tens of thousands" of Syrians.
The comments come after Turkey\’s parliament extended authorization for troops to be sent to Syria, if necessary. The mandate was originally passed last year after a Syrian mortar shell crossed into Turkey and killed five Turkish citizens.
President Assad\’s government is fighting a divided rebel force that analysts say is increasingly being infiltrated by Muslim extremists. Last month, al-Qaida-linked fighters seized the town of Azaz, just five kilometers from the border with Turkey.
Meanwhile, international inspectors in Syria are pressing ahead with their fourth day of efforts to oversee the destruction of the Syrian governments\’ chemical weapons arsenal.
The Geneva-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Thursday their team has made "encouraging process" following meetings with Syrian authorities. The group said it hopes next week to begin onsite inspections and start the initial disabling of some of the weapons systems.
Their mission, endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, stems from a deadly August 21 attack on opposition-held Damascus suburbs in which the U.N. determined the nerve agent sarin was used. The U.S. and its allies accuse the Syrian government of being responsible for the attack, while Damascus blames the rebels.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.