BELGRADE – Syria has always supported Serbia in refusing to recognize the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo despite a rift with Turkey, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday.

“We supported [Serbia] despite the fact that the Turks wanted to use their influence to help Kosovo, but we refused. That happened before the war here, seven or eight years ago, and we refused despite good relations with Turkey at that time. We supported Serbia,” Assad said in an interview with Serbia’s Politika newspaper.

The Syrian president compared the ongoing war in Syria with the Yugoslav war of the 1990s, when NATO intervened against Serbian forces. Syria’s war started in 2011 between government forces and armed opposition, as well as terrorist groups.

“The war in your country was presented as a humanitarian war, whereby the West intervened to protect one group of people from another. So many people believed the story. In Syria, they are using the same humanitarian mask. In actual fact, the West does not care about neither your people nor our people, nor about anyone in the world except for their own interests,” Assad said.

In 1999, NATO led by the United States engaged in a 78-day military campaign against what was then Yugoslavia, which consisted of Serbia and Montenegro, over alleged repressions of Albanians in Kosovo. Previously, ethnic Albanians from the Kosovo Liberation Army were engaged in killing Serbian police and civilians in a push for independence from the historically-Serbian province.

Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood, which was unilaterally proclaimed in 2008, and believes Kosovo is part of Serbia. Kosovo is recognized by 23 out of the 28 EU member states. Dozens more countries, including Russia and China, do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.