In what seems to be a bid to create the impression of growing support for his campaign against the Syrian president, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that Russia is rethinking its wholehearted support for Bashar al-Assad.
Erdogan said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is no longer of the opinion that he will support Assad to the end.
“Putin's current attitude toward Syria is more encouraging than before,” Erdogan told reporters onboard his presidential jet as he returned from a trip to Asian countries.
Erdogan cited as a proof his face-to-face meeting with Putin in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in June and the following phone calls, saying Putin has become "more positive" toward the developments in Syria.
"I believe he can give up Assad,” Erdogan said, adding, "Putin's current attitude toward Syria is more encouraging than before."
The Turkish leader has intensified his rhetoric against Assad's government over the past weeks as his country is waging an offensive in Syria with the declared aim of undermining the ISIL militants.
Erdogan has been one of the fiercest critics of Assad since the conflict began there four years ago. Russia has openly slammed those opposing Assad, with Putin saying recently that Moscow will continue supporting the Syrian government in its fights against foreign-backed militancy.
The meeting between Erdogan and Putin came on June 13 in Baku when the Azerbaijani capital was hosting the European Games. The two leader reportedly reached agreements on major energy projects, including the construction of a new pipeline underneath the Black Sea.
Talking to reporters, Erdogan said that attacks against ISIL in Syria will continue until the group is eliminated. He said that the offensive should also include the support of an international coalition led by the United States which is currently pounding the positions of ISIL in Iraq.
Earlier in the day, Russian officials had reacted to plans by Washington to provide assistance to Turkey’s attacks in Syria, saying that weakens the Syrian government and could benefit the ISIL.