MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In a speech on Tuesday, Erdogan said that Turkey's operation in Syria was aimed to "put an end to the rule of cruel tyrant Assad."
"He is repeating what he was saying in 2011 [in the beginning of the Syrian crisis]. It means that he didn’t change his plans. His invasion came after ISIS [Daesh] had failed to divide Syria so he sticks to his plan of dividing Syria," Saleh Muslim said.
Erdogan’s statement comes just several months after Russia, which has been supporting Assad in the fight against terrorism in Syria, launched a process of reconciliation with Turkey. The relations between the two countries had been tense after a November 2015 Russian jet downing by Ankara over Syria.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Erdogan's statement on Assad had come as a surprise and that Russia expected an explanation from Turkey. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in his turn, noted that Erdogan's comments ran counter to earlier reached agreements between Russia and Turkey.
The Turkish campaign in Syria has been widely criticized both by the Syrian Kurds and Damascus, who have accused Ankara of violating Syria's territorial integrity.