Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has expressed regret over the shooting down of a Turkish jet last month and says that he would not allow tensions between the two countries to turn into open combat. In an interview published, Tuesday, in the the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, Al-Assad said, "We learned that it belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 per cent 'if only we had not shot it down.'" Assad explained, "The plane was using a corridor which Israeli planes have used three times in the past. Soldiers shot it down because we did not see it on our radar and because information was not given." He added, "Of course I might have been happy if this had been an Israeli plane."
During, the interview, which apparently took place during the weekend, Al-Assad also said Syria had not and would not amass military forces along the Turkish border. Asked whether the tensions between the two countries could lead to war, he said, "We will not allow (the tensions) to turn into open combat between the two countries, which would harm them both."
Against the backdrop of calls for him to step down, Al-Assad asked, "Why would I hold on to power if saving my people and my country was a question of me staying or leaving? I would not stay even for one day." He added that if "my people don't want me, then there are elections. If people want they can make me leave."