TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The Syrian government said on Thursday that a US military presence in Syria represented an “aggression” against Syrian sovereignty, and vowed to free the country from any “illegitimate” foreign presence.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement was a response to a speech by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday in which he signaled that US forces would stay in parts of Syria indefinitely.
“The American military presence on Syrian land is illegitimate and represents a blatant breach of international law and an aggression against national sovereignty,” the statement said.
Syria would continue its “relentless war against terrorist movements with their different names until every inch of Syrian soil is cleansed” and would work with “the same determination” to free Syria of any “illegitimate foreign presence”, the statement noted, according to Reuters.
The United States has around 2,000 military personnel in Syria, deployed as part of the US-led coalition’s campaign against Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) terrorists. The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said the government was not in need of US dollars “stained with the blood of Syrians”.
In another development, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad warned Turkey against launching a military operation in the country’s northwestern region of Afrin, stressing that Syrian air defense systems are prepared to repel such an attack.
“We warn the Turkish leadership that if they initiate combat operations in the Afrin area, that will be considered an act of aggression conducted by the Turkish army,” he told reporters in Damascus on Thursday.
The comments came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the recent statements from the United States regarding plans to create a 30,000-strong “terror army” on Syria’s northern borders with Turkey were not satisfactory for the Ankara government.
Cavusoglu told Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network on Thursday that Turkey would intervene in Afrin and Manbij to counter the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militants, and that its mistrust of Washington continues.
In response, the US State Department on Thursday urged Turkey not to take any action in northern Syria, calling on Ankara to remain focused on fight against Daesh terrorist group.
At a news briefing, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US wanted Turkey to abstain from violence in Afrin.
"We would call… on the Turks to not take any actions of that sort,” Nauert said.
“We don't want them to engage in violence but we want them to keep focused on ISIS,” she said, using another acronym for Daesh.
An operation in Afrin — a region bordering Turkey's Hatay and Kilis provinces — is widely expected in the wake of Turkey's seven-month Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, which ended in March 2017, according to information gathered by Anadolu Agency.