The Latest: Syria vows to shoot down Turkish fighter jets
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
Syria’s deputy foreign minister says the country’s air force will shoot down any Turkish fighter jets that attack Syria.
The warning comes as tensions are skyrocketing over apparent Turkish preparations to attack a Kurdish enclave in the north of the country.
Faysal Mekdad says Syria considers any air attack or ground operations by Turkey on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin to be a “aggressive act” and a violation of international law.
He read a statement to reporters on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week that Turkey would start operations against the enclave of Afrin within days. Turkey says the Kurdish group in control of Afrin is a terror organization that is an extension of a separatist movement inside Turkey.
Turkey’s military says the country’s chief of military staff and intelligence chief have traveled to Russia for talks on the situation in Syria.
Their visit on Thursday comes as Turkey threatens to launch a military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin in northwest Syria. The Russian military is believed to have a presence in Afrin.
A military statement said Turkish Gen. Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, would meet with Russia’s military chief Valery Gerasimov to discuss regional security issues, developments in Syria and ongoing peace efforts for the war-torn country.
Turkey regards a Syrian Kurdish militia group controlling Afrin and other areas along its border as an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey and wants to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish corridor along the frontier
Syria’s Foreign Ministry says the U.S. is beyond its rights to intervene in Syrian affairs, one day after the Trump Administration laid out its expansive goals to influence the outcome of Syria’s seven-year long civil war.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. troops would stay in Syria for the foreseeable future to defeat jihadists, and said the U.S. would not fund the reconstruction of any part of Syria where President Bashar Assad is in power.
The Foreign Ministry, in remarks carried on Syria’s state news agency SANA, said Thursday that America’s military presence is “illegal.”
It said Syria “does not need a single dollar from the U.S. for reconstruction because this dollar is stained with the blood of the Syrians.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has complained about inconsistent statements from the United States about the creation of a border security force in northern Syria, saying Washington has to eliminate the confusion and stand by Turkey.
Turkey has reacted angrily to reports of a Kurdish-led border force in Syria, calling it an “army of terror” and vowing to crush it.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the “entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described, some people misspoke.” He said America aimed to provide training to local elements in Syria — not create a border security force.
The comment however, did not appear to satisfy Turkish leaders.
Yildirim says: “The U.S. must eliminate the confusion and change its stance in favor of peace and improving relations with Turkey.”