US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday denied claims that the United States had any intention of building a Syria-Turkey border force, saying the issue, which has incensed Ankara, had been “misportrayed.”
Turkey has reacted angrily and warned of an imminent incursion into Syria’s Afrin district after Washington said it would help Syrian Democratic Forces led by Kurdish YPG militias to set up a new 30,000 strong border force, Reuters reported.
On Wednesday, Turkey said it would not hesitate to take action in Afrin district and other regions across the border in Syria unless the United States withdrew support for the force.
According to Reuters, Tillerson told reporters he had met Turkey’s foreign minister in Vancouver on Tuesday to clarify the issue.
“That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed. Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said aboard his aircraft taking him back to Washington from Canada, where he hosted a meeting on North Korea.
“I think it’s unfortunate that comments made by some left that impression. That is not what we’re doing.”
On Monday, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “strangle” a planned 30,000-strong US-backed force in Syria “before it’s even born,” Reuters reported.
This comes after, reports emerged that the United States had announced its support on Sunday for plans for a “border force” to defend territory held by US-backed, Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad responded on Monday by vowing to crush the new force and drive US troops from the country.
Assad’s ally Russia called the plans a plot to dismember Syria and place part of it under US control.
But the strongest denunciation came from Erdogan, who has presided as relations between the United States and its biggest Muslim ally within NATO have stretched to the breaking point, reported Reuters.
“A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” Erdogan said of the United States in a speech in Ankara. “What can that terror army target but Turkey?”
“Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.”