Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said the United States "does not want to keep Syria as a state in its current borders", accusing Washington of seeking to establish a Kurdish-controlled entity along Turkish and Iraqi border zones.
Speaking at an annual press conference in Moscow to review the past year's diplomatic activities on Monday January 13, Lavrov said:
"The [US'] actions that we have been observing indicate that the US does not want to keep Syria as a state in its current borders ... The US wants to help the Syrian Democratic Forces to set up some border-security zones," hesaid, referring to a US-backed rebel alliance dominated by Syrian Kurds, known as the SDF. What it would mean is that vast swaths of territory along the border of Turkey and Iraq would be isolated. It's to the east of the Euphrates river. There are difficult relations between Kurds and Arabs there. If you say that this zone will be controlled by the forces supported by the US, there will be "a force of 30,000 people."
Erdogan: US trying to form 'terror army' in Syria
Commenting on reports of the US plan to establish a 30,000-strong new border-security force with the involvement of Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the US was working to form a "terror army" on his country's southern border by training a new force in Syria that includes Kurdish fighters.
"What we are supposed to do is to drown this terror army before in comes into being," he said in an address in the capital Ankara on January 15, calling the Kurdish fighters "backstabbers" who will point their weapons to the US in the future.
According to media reports quoting US officials, the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL also known as ISIS) will recruit around half of the new force from the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of fighters dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara considers Kurdish YPG fighters as a "terrorist" organization with links to to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long fight inside the country. PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies. The US views the YPG as a highly effective fighting force against ISIL.
Erdogan said that Turkey's armed forces had completed preparations for an operation against the Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin in northwest Syria and the town of Manbij.
He warned Turkey's allies against helping "terrorists" in Syria and said: "We won't be responsible for consequences."
"The establishment of the so-called Syria Border Protection Force was not consulted with Turkey, which is a member of the coalition," the Turkish foreign ministry said.
US backtracks on Syrian 'border guard'
The United States continues to train local security forces linked to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, but will not create a 'border guard force' and understands the concerns of Turkey, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement on Wednesday January 17.
"The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities," the Pentagon said. "It is also essential so that ISIS cannot reemerge in liberated and ungoverned areas. This is not a new 'army' or conventional 'border guard' force."
The statement added that the U.S. was "keenly aware of the security concerns of Turkey, our Coalition partner and NATO ally."
Noting that Turkey's security concerns are legitimate, the Pentagon said it would continue to be transparent with Ankara about its efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria, "and stand by our NATO ally in its counter-terrorism efforts.
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