World Bulletin/News Desk
U.S. defense chiefs on Friday downplayed Turkey's deployment of troops and military vehicles toward its border with Syria, saying the movements didn't appear aimed at escalating tensions with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A Turkish official on Thursday described the movement as a precaution after Syrian air defenses shot down a Turkish warplane a week ago.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that Turkey has maintained troops along the border.
"And I wouldn't read too much into the movements that have been in the press," Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that "I wouldn't read that as provocative in any way."
Dempsey, who recently spoke with his Turkish counterpart, General Necdet Ozel, added: "You'd probably have to ask the Turks. I've asked them and they are not seeking to be provocative."
Commenting on his conversation with Ozel, Dempsey said: "He's taking a very measured approach to the incident. So he and I are staying in contact."
Turkish commanders on Friday inspected missile batteries deployed in the border region, seen as a graphic warning to Assad after last Friday's shoot-down of the Turkish plane.
"A nation loses in this case two airmen to a hostile act, it will of course increase the risk of escalation. But [...] the internal movement of their ground forces, -- I wouldn't read that as provocative in any way. [...] I've asked them, and they are not seeking to be provocative," Dempsey told reporters in a press conference.
US Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said the United States continued to be concerned about developments in Syria.
"We are in discussions. Turkey is one of our allies in that region. We continue to be in close discussions with them with regards to how we best approach the situation in Syria. They have maintained troops, as I understand it, along the border. And I wouldn't read too much into the movements that have been in the press," Panetta said.
Turkey has begun moving troops and armored units to the border with Syria just days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was changing rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces.
"Any Syrian military element approaching the Turkish border from Syria will be considered as a military threat and dealt with accordingly," Erdogan has said.
The unarmed Turkish plane was shot down by Syria while on a training and test mission after unintentionally strayed into Syrian airspace but it was quickly warned by Turkish authorities to leave.
The incident has drawn widespread condemnation amid the continuing violence in Syria.
Turkey said the Syrian act constituted a violation of international law and that Ankara would take "every necessary measure."
Shelling comes amid ongoing campaign to wrest war-battered city from ISIL
According to Rami Hamdallah, Israeli PM Netanyahu is only 'trying to buy time'
'The agreement will allow Sudan to build in the future a nuclear plant to generate nuclear energy for peaceful use,' Sudanese electricity ministry says
A US surveillance plane had its transponders turned off during anincident near the Russian border
Britain has granted refugee status to former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed who was imprisoned in 2015 after a trial that drew international criticism
Police have lifted a number of blockades but a number of French regions have resorted to imposing fuel restrictions per vehicle.
Police claim operation to transfer thousands of people will be smooth and gradual
EIB eyes increasing its contributions to projects aimed at mitigating refugee crisis
Ukrainian leader Petro Porochenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with France's Hollande and Russia's Putin also call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the eastern Ukraine
State Dept. does not support group's desire for semi-autonomous zones in northern Syria
Turkish presidential sources say Erdogan and Merkel agree to revisit thorny issue of anti-terror law reform
Interior Ministry reports a record increase in far-right violence, attacks against asylum centers
Azerbaijani president says 1 million 'have been forced to flee the places they were born' by Armenian actions
It took only 31,000 votes for Alexander Van der Bellen the "lesser evil" to beat far-right Norbert Hofer
'Our meeting is the message,' Pope Francis declares after meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb
More than 60 heads of state and government with top NGOs gather in Istanbul, aiming to better keep conflicts from erupting and ensure legal retribution for those guilty of humanitarian crimes