Europe will “pay the price” if it arms Syrian rebels, President Bashar al-Assad warned on Monday.
“If the Europeans deliver weapons (to rebels), Europe’s backyard will become a terrorists’ place and Europe will pay the price for it,” Assad was quoted as having said in an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, excerpts of which were published Monday.
He said that chaos in Syria would result in “the direct export of terrorism to Europe”, adding, “Terrorists will return to Europe with fighting experience and extremist ideologies.”
The Syrian President also insisted that European efforts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” rebels when it comes to shipping weapons would be like “differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban a few years ago, or a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Al-Qaeda.”
Referring to statements that his regime has used chemical weapons on rebels, Assad said, “If Paris, London and Washington had only one piece of evidence backing up their allegations, they would have unveiled it to the world.
“Weapons of mass destruction are capable of killing hundreds, thousands at once. That’s why they are used. That’s why it is not logical to use chemical weapons to kill a number of people that can be achieved through conventional weapons,” he noted.
The full interview with the Syrian President is due to be published on Tuesday.
Last week, Washington accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, including sarin nerve gas, on rebels, adding that America will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response.
To date, President Barack Obama has only committed non-lethal aid, despite lawmakers’ calls for more forceful action from the U.S. as the civil war there intensifies and threatens neighboring countries.
One of the reasons for the hesitation in arming rebels is that they include radical, jihadist groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
European Union foreign ministers agreed at the end of May to lift an arms embargo in order to supply weapons to Syrian rebels, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time that “no immediate decision” would be made on sending arms to the rebels.
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