Syrian President Bashar Assad has conceded that Turkish and Saudi troops could be soon arriving in his country, even after stark warnings that foreigners will be "sent home in coffins". The comments come as Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said that the removal of Assad is "crucial" to defeating the brutal regime of Islamic State (Isis) which dominates huge swathes of Syria.
Assad, who remains positive about retaking the whole of the war-torn country, has been battling Western and Saudi-backed opposition in fierce fighting in Aleppo over the past few weeks. The Syrian Army advance, reinforced by Russian airstrikes, is on the verge of retaking what was once Syria's most populous city.
Both the Saudis and the UAE have recently expressed a desire to send ground troops to the country, should a US-led coalition agree to do so. This was met with defiant rhetoric from Damascus as they declared foreign troops would be 'sent home in coffins' by the nation's army.
UN-backed peace talks in Geneva between the opposition umbrella group the High Negotiations committee (HNC) and Assad's government broke down in January. And a ceasefire has been mooted by Russia for 1 March, which may give Assad enough time to retake Aleppo.
Assad told the AFP that although a Turkish or Saudi invasion may not be "logical" it may still happen. He said: "Logically, intervention is not possible, but sometimes reality is at odds with logic, particularly when there are irrational people leading a certain state. That's why I don't rule that out for a simple reason: Erdogan is a fanatical person with Muslim Brotherhood inclinations
"He believes that he has an Islamist mission in our region. The same applies to Saudi Arabia."
On Friday, the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a security conference in Munich after meeting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, that Assad was the "single most effective magnet for extremists and terrorists in the region".
Al-Jubeir added that the removal of Assad was: "our objective and we will achieve it," he said according to Al Arabiya. "Unless and until there is a change in Syria, Daesh will not be defeated in Syria, period.
"Regardless of whether we can do that or not, this is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation, It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part."