BEIRUT — The Trump administration has backed away from its description of a planned security force in northeastern Syria amid escalating threats by Turkey to launch a cross-border assault against the Kurdish group involved.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday the new language being used to describe what was originally billed as a border security force did not assuage Turkey’s concerns about the United States’ relationship with the Syrian Kurds.
Turkey is pressing ahead with plans to launch a military operation in Syria, he told CNN Turk, and has dispatched its military chief of staff, Hulusi Akar, to Moscow to secure Russian consent. Russia controls the skies over the area that Turkey is preparing to attack and could potentially down Turkish planes.
Syria, however, warned Thursday that it was prepared to shoot down Turkish planes if Turkish troops attack the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, on the Syrian border with Turkey, underscoring the risk of a wider regional conflict.
“The Syrian air defenses have restored their full force, and they are ready to destroy Turkish aviation targets in Syrian Arab Republic skies,” Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, said in a statement published by state media.