United States backpedals on new Kurdish force as Turkey prepares for war

Turkish-backed fighters from the Free Syrian Army stand in the Tal Malid area north of Aleppo as they fire towards Kurdish People's Protection Units positions in the village of Um al-Hosh in the area of Afrin

Turkey began a new air and ground operation to oust Kurdish militia from their northern Syrian enclave, defying USA warnings that this could further destabilise the area after nearly seven years of civil war.

Sporadic cross-border artillery exchanges between the two sides have been ongoing at least since August, but increased on Thursday after the USA announced it would maintain and train a 30,000-strong Kurdish force in northern and eastern Syria to stabilize the regions against ISIS.

Syria said on Thursday its air defense would shoot down any Turkish jets that carry out attacks within Syria, a stark warning as tensions soar over apparent preparations by the Turkish military to invade a northern Syrian Kurdish enclave. Ankara says that these two groups are affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) recognized as terrorist in Turkey.

Turkey's foreign minister said the Moscow trip by Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar was part of talks with both Russian Federation and Iran, the two main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to allow Turkish planes to take part in an Afrin campaign.

Responding to reporters' questions hours after Turkish armed forces kicked-off an operation against Kurdish forces, Yildirim said the military had destroyed almost all targets it identified in the region with air strikes.

Turkey sent its military chief to Moscow on Thursday, seeking approval for an air campaign in the Kurdish-controlled region, although Damascus has warned it could shoot down any Turkish planes in its skies.

A U.S. State Department official on Friday said military intervention by Turkey in Syria would undermine regional stability and would not help protect Turkey's border security.

Turkish artillery has already been shelling YPG positions near Afrin, Turkish media reported.

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"We would not want an ally like the USA against us in this situation". "We need to see concrete steps from the United States".

"Syria completely denies claims by the Turkish regime that it was informed of this military operation", a foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA.

Turkey has said the operation against Afrin will be a continuation of that seven-month offensive, known as Euphrates Shield, which ended in March 2017.

Russian Federation is Syria's most powerful ally. Russian Federation would prefer handing over Idlib to the Syrian government, instead of Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Ankara was outraged over Dillon's statement announcing that the coalition would establish a new "border security force" with the SDF in Syria.

"Our worry is deep and the beating of war drums by the Turkish leadership is displeasing", Mekdad said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. troops would stay in Syria for the foreseeable future to defeat jihadists, and said the U.S. would not fund the reconstruction of any part of Syria where President Bashar Assad is in power.

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