Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted he enjoyed popular support in his own country and said foreign intervention was mainly to blame for the conflict, in an interview published Thursday.
“At the end of the day, we are human too,” he told the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.
“We can make mistakes,” he conceded, referring to his administration’s handling of the public protests that erupted in March last year.
But the president insisted that outside intervention was responsible for the conflict in his country. He accused foreign backers of financing the protests.
“The role of the foreign intervention outweighs our own mistakes and it is way more destructive,” he told the daily, which published the two previous parts of the lengthy interview in previous days.
Assad said he had the backing of the Syrian people, who kept him in charge of Syria despite “the petty calculations of everybody else.”
He added: “I would have already been toppled without the support of the Syrian people.”
International powers, “led by the United States,” he said, should stop supporting the opposition.
Assad also accused Syria’s regional neighbours of supporting the “terrorists” inside his country.
In an earlier part of the interview published Wednesday Assad accused Turkey of giving logistical backing to Syrian “terrorists” and told Ankara to stop meddling in his country’s affairs.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissing the accusations and branded Assad a liar, in a response published by Cumhuriyet on Thursday.
“It is impossible to believe Assad, after he has killed nearly 20,000 people in one year,” Davutoglu said.
Turkey is home to the main operating body of the rebel Free Syrian Army, which launches operations inside Syria under the command of colonel Riad Al-Assad.
Turkey has repeatedly denied that it allows attacks in Syria to be launched from its territory and insists it is not giving any support to the Free Syrian Army, as alleged by Syria and reports in the foreign media.
But a string of Syrian officers and soldiers deserting Assad’s army have arrived in Turkey in recent weeks.
Turkey is also sheltering 35,000 displaced Syrians who have fled the unrest in their country.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s military announced it had recovered the bodies of the two pilots of a Turkish fighter jet shot down by Syria last month over the eastern Mediterranean sea.