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Syria will respond to Turkish “aggression” in Efrin, minister says

Government also says U.S. presence in Syria is "an utter aggression and a blatant violation of the international law"

The Syrian government will respond to Turkish “aggression” in Efrin and is will destroy air targets in Syrian airspace, the deputy foreign minister said.

“We warn the Turkish leadership that in the event of initiating hostilities in the area of Afrin, this will be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic’s territories in accordance with the international law known to the Turkish side,” deputy foreign minister and permanent representative to the United Nations Faisal Mekdad said in a statement, state news agency SANA reported.

“We note that the Syrian Air Defense has regained its full strength and is ready to destroy the Turkish air targets in the skies of the Syrian Arab Republic. This means that in the event of Turkish airstrikes on Syria, the Turkish side should realize that it is not going in a picnic,” Mekdad added.

Mekdad said he hoped that Turkey would listen and that the message about Efrin is clear to “all whom this may concern,” adding that the “northern and northeastern region of the Syrian Arab Republic has always been a Syrian Arab territory as it will always be.”

The statement comes just hours after Turkey’s national security council said steps should be taken immediately to defeat threats from the Kurdish enclave of Efrin in Syria’s Aleppo governorate.

Tension between Syria, Turkey and the United States has ramped up since Saturday, when an official from the U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State told The Defense Post that it was working with the Syrian Democratic Forces to set up a 30,000 strong Syrian Border Security Force.

Shortly afterwards, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to destroy this force, and reiterated threats to attack Efrin.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, however, dismissed such a threat. He said Turkey would take every necessary countermeasure.

Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday that Turkey would decide on possible operations in Efrin after deliberations with Russia.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon backtracked on plans for the Syrian border force, saying it “is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” but is” designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities,” and to guard against the reemergence of Islamic State.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also denied that there were plans to create a border force. “That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed. Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson confirmed that the U.S. intends to maintain an open-ended military presence in Syria to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda, and to contain Iran.

Syrian assistant foreign minister Ayman Sousan told a delegation of Federation of Arab American Associations on Thursday that Syria rejected any U.S. or other presence on its territory without government consent and that it is considered “an utter aggression and a blatant violation of the international law,” SANA reported.

A source in the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told SANA on Thursday that the U.S. military presence in Syria was illegitimate and an aggression on Syria’s sovereignty.

US backtracks on Syrian ‘border guard’ plan after Turkish threats to attack Efrin

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