Tillerson says US needs Ankara’s ‘close cooperation’ in Syria

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson / AFP PHOTO / Don MacKinnon

In a speech at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on Wednesday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that the US takes Turkey’s concerns regarding Syria “seriously” and said Ankara’s cooperation was necessary to secure a new future for the war-torn country.

“The US hears and takes seriously the concerns of our NATO ally Turkey. We recognize the humanitarian contributions and military sacrifices Turkey has made towards defeating ISIS, towards their support of millions of Syrian refugees and stabilizing areas of Syria it has helped liberate. We must have Turkey’s close cooperation in achieving a new future for Syria that ensures security for Syria’s neighbors,” he said “Any interim arrangements must be truly representative and must not threaten any of Syria’s neighboring states.”

Tillerson’s comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would destroy a border security force planned by the US in northern Syria

The US-led Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 to be deployed along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast and along the Euphrates River Valley.

“America has admitted that it is setting up a terrorist army along our border. It is our duty to choke this terror army before it is born,” Erdoğan said during a meeting in Ankara.

Calling on the US to terminate the plan, Erdoğan said: “Our message to our allies and friends is this: Do not stand between the terrorists and us. Do not stand between us and this herd of murderers. If not, we will not be responsible for unfortunate events. Get you flags down from the terrorist bases so that we are not forced to give those flags back to you. Get your insignias off the uniforms of terrorists so we are not forced to bury them with the terrorists.”

Erdoğan on Saturday said Turkey would carry out a military operation in Syria’s Afrin and Manbij regions “if the terrorists do not pull out in one week.”

The Pentagon, however, said on Wednesday it was not creating a new army or a conventional border guard in Syria after Turkey reacted with outrage to US plans to train fighters including Syrian Kurds on internal security, Reuters reported.

“The U.S. continues to train local security forces in Syria. The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

”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,” it said.

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