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MIDEAST >2,000 Syrian rebels to be trained in Turkey

Uğur ErganANKARA

US and Turkish military officials meet to hash out plans to train and arm 2,000 moderate Syrian rebels in Central Anatolia

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Rebel fighters run during a battle against Syrian government soldiers in Handarat, on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, in this file photo. Turkey and the US will train around 2,000 Syrian militants at a Turkish base. AFP Photo

Rebel fighters run during a battle against Syrian government soldiers in Handarat, on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, in this file photo. Turkey and the US will train around 2,000 Syrian militants at a Turkish base. AFP Photo

Military officials from the United States and Turkey have met at the Turkish General Staff’s headquarters in Ankara for a third time to discuss equipping and training moderate Syrian rebels, and agreed on using the Hirfanlı military training center in Kırşehir for the training ground.

Officials from both the United States European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and high-ranking Turkish military officials agreed on a number of points about the training of Syrian opposition fighters in Turkey.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) members, including Syrian Turkmens will be trained at the Hirfanlı gendarmerie training center in Kırşehir, sources told to the Hürriyet Daily News. U.S. officials will also take part in the training.

The U.S. will primarily provide weapons and ammunition for the Syrian opposition, with the costs of the training also expected to be provided by Washington. 

Around 2,000 Syrian fighters are slated to be given military training, which is set to begin at the end of December.

Sources suggested that Ankara and Washington were not able to agree on the training of Democratic Union Party (PYD) fighters, so the U.S. will conduct the training in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Ankara is not warm on the idea of training PYD fighters, as it sees the group as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey also insists on a broader strategy that includes the ouster of Bashar al-Assad, but the U.S. is cold to purely targeting the al-Assad regime, expressing the necessity of including the struggle against elements of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to sources.

“We don’t approve of one-dimensional policies,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had earlier said, underlining the government’s position that permanent peace in the region will only be brought if the al-Assad regime is toppled. He said Turkey could only contribute to the international coalition if the coalition agrees to establish a safe haven and a no-fly zone in Syria.

“At the moment, the PYD is equal with the PKK for us. It is also a terrorist organization. It would be very wrong for America – with whom we are allies and are together with in NATO – to expect us to say ‘yes’ after openly announcing such support for a terrorist organization. It cannot expect such a thing from us and we cannot say ‘yes’ to such a thing either,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters on board of a plane returning from Kabul to Istanbul, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Oct. 19.

November/15/2014

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