Syria air defense to destroy Turkish jets if they attack: Deputy FM
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad has warned Turkey against launching a military operation in the country’s northwestern region of Afrin, stressing that Syrian air defense systems are prepared to repel such an attack.
“We warn the Turkish leadership that if they initiate combat operations in the Afrin area, that will be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army,” he told reporters in Damascus on Thursday.
The comments came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the recent statements from the United States regarding plans to create a 30,000-strong “terror army” on Syria’s northern borders with Turkey were not satisfactory for the Ankara government.
Cavusoglu told Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network on Thursday that Turkey would intervene in Afrin and Manbij to counter the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants, and that its mistrust of Washington continues.
The top Turkish diplomat noted that the United States must retake the weapons given to the terrorists, and completely end its cooperation with them.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Thursday that his country “could never remain silent” in the face of developments that threatened its borders and security.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday denied that the United States had any intention to build a Syria-Turkey border force, saying the issue, which has incensed Ankara, had been “misportrayed, [and] misdescribed. Some people misspoke.”
“This statement is important, but Turkey cannot remain silent in the face of any formation which will threaten its borders,” Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told broadcaster NTV.
Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon said that the controversial new Kurdish-led force was not a new “army” or “border guard” force.
“The US continues to train local security forces in Syria. The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities,” Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, said in a written statement.
“It is also essential so that ISIS (Daesh) cannot reemerge in liberated and ungoverned areas,” he said.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
This is while US officials consider the YPG as the most effective fighting force against Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the militant group.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on Sunday when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the so-called military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.
A top Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Sunday that the main reason behind summoning Philip Kosnett, the American charge d‘affaires in Ankara, last week was in fact Washington’s training of the new “Border Security Force” (BSF) within Syria, a move that was denounced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, who called it “worrying.”
On Monday, Damascus said it is determined to end US military presence in the country with Syrian Foreign Ministry slamming Washington’s border force plan as a “blatant assault” on its sovereignty.
State television cited an official source in the ministry as saying that the Syrian army was resolved to end any form of US presence in the country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also asserted that Washington’s decision to form a zone held by US-backed militants could lead to the division of the Arab country.
“The announcement that this zone will be controlled by the US-backed groups – by the force up to 30,000 people – this is a very serious issue, which causes concerns that a course was set for the partition of Syria,” Lavrov said at an annual news conference.