Istanbul, Turkey- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told a Turkish newspaper he wished Syrian forces had not shot down a Turkish jet last month and that he would not allow the tensions between the two countries to turn into open combat.
"We learned that it (the plane) belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 percent 'if only we had not shot it down'," the Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted President al-Assad as saying in an interview published on Tuesday.
Press reports on Tuesday indicated that his comments emerged as fighting raged throughout Syria to unseat President Bashar al-Assad in what is increasingly taking on the character of an all-out civil war, fuelled by sectarian hatred.
Asked whether the tensions between Syria and Turkey could lead to war, President al-Assad said "We will not allow (the tensions) to turn into open combat between the two countries, which would harm them both."
He also said Syria had not amassed and would not amass military forces along the Turkish border, whatever action Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government takes.
According to the Turkish daily newspaper, President al-Assad said Syria would not shy away from apologising if it emerged that the plane was shot down in international airspace.
"The plane was using a corridor which Israeli planes have used three times before. Soldiers shot it down because we did not see it on our radar and because information was not given."
"Of course I might have been happy if this had been an Israeli plane," President al-Assad said.
President al-Assad also downplayed the possibility of the situation between Turkey and Syria escalating, saying it will not turn into "armed conflict." the Turkish newspaper added
The Turkish news-paper Cumhuriyet did not specify when the interview was held, but in it Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refers to an international meeting held in Geneva on Saturday under the auspices of peace envoy Kofi Annan.
Turkey has heightened military activity along its southern border since Syria shot down the Turkish jet over the Mediterranean on June 22, prompting a sharp rebuke from Ankara which said it would respond "decisively".
Syria says it shot down the Turkish jet in self-defence and that it was brought down in Syrian air space.
Turkey says the jet accidentally violated Syrian air space for a few minutes but was brought down in international air space.