Turkey believes Damascus is now portraying the Syrian crisis as a Sunni-Shi’ite conflict to mask President Bashar al-Assad’s loss of political authority, according to a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
This “neo-sectarian” approach aims to rally Syrian Shi’ites to Assad’s side and explain away opposition to him by majority Sunni states in the region, Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters.
But Syria’s Sunnis and Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ism to which Assad belongs, are not fixed blocs and Turkey does not see the crisis in sectarian terms, Kalin said at a weekend conference of Muslim and Christian religious leaders from the Middle East.
“The Assad regime, because it has lost its political legitimacy, is now trying to present this as a sectarian conflict,” he said. “They claim that those who oppose the Assad regime do so because they are Sunnis and they hate Shi’ites.