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US-led coalition to build 30,000-strong border force in Syria

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The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said on Sunday it was working to create a 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria, reported The New Arab (UK).

The announcement drew sharp condemnation from Turkey due to the large Kurdish contingent in the planned border force.

The Syrian Democratic Forces alliance is a US-backed force that has led the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.

With the militants almost completely defeated, the Kurdish-led force and Washington are beginning to shift their focus to border security, US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon told AFP.

"There is a goal of a final force of approximately 30,000," about half of whom would be retrained SDF fighters, he said.

"There are approximately 230 individuals that are training right now in the border security force. That's an inaugural class," Dillon said.

Backed by the US-led coalition's air strikes, special forces advisers, and weapons, the SDF has ousted IS from swathes of north-eastern Syria.

Its Kurdish and Arab members now control territory bordering Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and Syrian government forces to the west.

Turkey reacted sharply to news of the border force on Sunday, saying it would "legitimise a terror organisation".

Ankara is fiercely opposed to the SDF, which is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - considered by the Turkish government to be a "terrorist" group.

"Rather than end its support to the PYD-YPG, these steps taken to legitimise a terror organisation and to make it permanent in the region are worrying," said Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Accepting this state of affairs is absolutely not possible," Kalin added.
Top SDF media official Mustefa Bali confirmed the creation of the border force, and said training had already begun.

"We are transitioning to a new phase of coordination between us and the international coalition," Bali told AFP.

"The wide areas and cities that were liberated need someone to protect them."

Bali said the new units would be deployed along the Turkish border and adjacent to territory held by Syrian troops, but did not immediately respond to a question on rules of engagement in those areas.

Turkey has often targeted YPG positions in northern Syria and on Sunday, Erdogan threatened to attack the Kurdish-held area of Afrin in northern Syria "in the days ahead".

The SDF's relationship with regime forces is less tense.

Since last year, a "de-confliction line" cutting diagonally across eastern Syria has largely kept the two forces from clashing.

The Syrian regime "strongly condemned" the announcement and described the move as a "blatant breach of Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

"The ministry considered any Syrian citizen who takes part in the US-backed militia as a traitor to the Syrian state and people and will be treated as one," the foreign ministry said, according to SANA.


Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday criticized the recently announced plan of the U.S. to form a so-called border army led by the terrorist PKK/PYD group in Syria, reported Anadolu Agency (Turkey).

Speaking to journalists in Canada's Vancouver city, Cavusoglu said: "The U.S. must clarify which side it is on, whether it chooses to be with its allies or terror groups?"

His remarks came following an announcement made by the U.S.-led international coalition against Daesh on Sunday that it would establish a 30,000-strong new border security force with the SDF -- the U.S.-backed group, largely controlled and manned by the PKK/PYD terrorist organization in Syria.

The Turkish foreign minister warned: "We will take our own measures [against terror groups]. Regardless of who backs them; whether it is the U.S. or other countries, it doesn't matter to us."

About a possible Afrin operation in Syria, he said Turkey will fight against the PYD terrorists in Syria just like it did against the PKK.

Turkey has long protested the U.S. support for the PKK/PYD terror group, while Washington has brushed off these criticisms, saying it needs the terror group’s help to fight against Daesh in Syria.

The PKK/PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU.

The PKK has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, leading to the deaths of more than 40,000 security forces and civilians -- including more than 1,200 since July 2015.

‘Turkey key for global peace’

Also on Monday, Cavusoglu attended the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada.

He said Turkey was a key player for achieving world peace and tolerance.
"Turkey will continue to play a significant role for peace and prosperity around the world," he added.

Referring to the regional crisis in the Middle East, he said Turkey had been doing its best to help preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Cavusoglu is currently in Canada to attend the Vancouver Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, which will demonstrate solidarity against the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea.

Among the countries attending are Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Regarding bilateral relations between Canada and Turkey, Cavusoglu said the two countries were "good allies".

Pointing to the presence of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) in Canada, the minister called on Turkish citizens in the country to inform local authorities about the nature of the terrorist group.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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