Turkey has warned of an imminent incursion into Syria's Afrin district after Washington announced it would help Syrian Democratic Forces set up a new 30,000-strong border force.

US  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a news conference during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula in Vancouver, British Columbia,Canada on  January 16, 2018.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a news conference during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula in Vancouver, British Columbia,Canada on January 16, 2018. (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday denied that the US had any intention of building a Syria-Turkey border force, saying the issue, which has incensed Ankara, had been "misportrayed."

Turkey has warned of an imminent incursion into Syria's Afrin district after Washington said it would help Syrian Democratic Forces led by YPG militias to set up a new 30,000-strong border force.

Tillerson told reporters that he had met Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Vancouver on Tuesday to clarify the issue. 

Waiving its newly announced name, "Border Protection Force," the Pentagon late on Wednesday claimed that PKK/PYD-led SDF force was not a new "army" or conventional "border guard" force.

"That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed," Tillerson said. "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."

TRT World's Harry Horton has more from Washington DC.

'Border Protection Force'

"The US continues to train local security forces in Syria. The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said in a statement.

"It is also essential so that ISIS [Daesh] cannot re-emerge in liberated and ungoverned areas. This is not a new "army" or conventional "border guard" force."

Turkey has long protested against US support for the PYD/PKK, while Washington has brushed off its status as a PKK offshoot, calling it a "reliable ally" in its fight against Daesh in Syria.

Listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, the PKK has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years.

Some 40,000 people have been killed in the clashes mainly concentrated in Turkey's southeast, as well as various attacks elsewhere in the country.

Pahon asserted that the training existing forces were consistent with campaign objectives to ensure an enduring defeat of Daesh, facilitate stabilisation efforts, and create the conditions that support the UN-led Geneva process.

Stating that the fight against Daesh in Syria was not over, he claimed PKK/PYD-led SDF forces were focused on preventing Daesh fighters fleeing Syria and improving local security in liberated areas.

"These forces will protect the local population and help prevent ISIS from launching new attacks against the U.S. and its allies and partners, pending a longer-term political solution to the Syrian civil war in Geneva," the statement read.

TRT World's Nafisa Latic has more.

US will stand with Turkey in fight against terrorism

Pahon also said the Pentagon was aware of Turkey's concern as an coalition partner and NATO ally and its security concerns were legitimate.

"We will continue to be completely transparent with Turkey about our efforts in Syria to defeat ISIS (Daesh) and stand by our NATO ally in its counter-terrorism efforts," he added.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Thursday complained about inconsistent statements from the US about the creation of a border security force in northern Syria, saying Washington has to eliminate the confusion and stand by Turkey.

"The US must eliminate the confusion and change its stance in favour of peace and improving relations with Turkey," Yildirim said. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies