The United States' threat to cancel the sale of Patriot missiles to Turkey if it buys Russian air defence systems is really aimed at postponing a Turkish cross-border operation in neighbouring Syria, retired Turkish Brig. Gen. Fahri Erenel has said.
"The US is using the Turkish purchase of S-400s from Russia to achieve its own ulterior goals," Erenel said, speaking to Turkey's Yeni Safak newspaper.
Regarding the US attempt to press Ankara not to purchase the Russian S-400s, Erenel warned that if Turkey succumbs to such pressure, "Turkish-Russian bilateral relations would reach an irrevocable point…It would cause staggering after-effects. It would stir up the civil war in Syria. It would directly affect a large-scale area from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Black Sea," he stressed.
Erenel said he was confident that Ankara "will not step back" on the S-400 issue, and would buy the system from Russia "at all costs. There is no turning back anymore," he concluded.
Last week, the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia controlling much of northern Syria which Ankara classifies as 'terrorists', voiced opposition to the creation of a Turkish-controlled security zone in northeast Syria. Turkey's plan envisions Ankara establishing control over the Manbij area, and a 30-35 km buffer zone in Syria along the Turkish border. Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any agreement involving Syrian territory must include agreement from Damascus. The Syrian government has so far rejected the safe zone idea, accusing Ankara of turning a "blind eye to the international resolutions which have always reaffirmed respect for Syrian territorial integrity."