Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Thursday issued a stern warning to his counterparts in Ankara that the Syrian Air Force is ready to shoot down any Turkish military aircraft that cross into Syria’s airspace.
Mekdad also advised Turkey to back down from its plan to launch a major offensive in the northeastern Syrian city of Afrin, saying any such move would be considered an “act of aggression”.
“The Syrian Air Force has regained its full strength and is ready to destroy any Turkish military targets that enter the skies of the Syrian Arab Republic. If Turkey’s opts to launch airstrikes inside Syria’s borders, we want the Turks to understand that this is not going to be a picnic,” said Mikdad.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a military incursion into northern Syria to battle up to 10,000 Kurdish People’s Protection Units – or YPG – and Syrian Democratic Forces fighters based near Turkey’s border.
Ankara’s readiness to launch a full-scale military operation to clear the region of the YPG – which Erdogan claims is a terror organization akin to ISIS and the radical jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra – could complicate a final settlement to end the seven-year civil war that has torn the country apart and killed nearly half a million people.
Turkey’s attempts to take control of a 130-kilometer stretch Syrian territory would seriously damage its relationships with Russia and Iran, who actively support Syria’s dictatorial President Bashar al-Assad.