Turkey and the U.S. could end the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) if they collaborated against the group together, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkish military officials were in contact with their American
counterparts and shared Turkey’s conditions regarding the fight against ISIL, daily Hürriyet quoted Erdoğan as saying on Sept. 25, during an interview conducted en route from the U.S. to Turkey.
The total number of ISIL members in Syria was nearly 10,000, while similar figures applied to Iraq as well, he said.
“If Turkey and the U.S. cannot cope with these [ISIL militants], what a shame,” he stated, adding that if both countries used their capabilities, they can end the jihadist group.
“The arms of the coalition countries should target Daesh [ISIL] the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD] and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] instead of our tanks. But, German
‘Milan’ arms in the hands of terrorists hit our tanks,” Erdoğan said.
Elaborating on how the leading actors in the Syrian crisis considered a no-fly zone proposal in the war-torn country, Erdoğan said the U.S. had welcomed Turkey’s proposal for a no-fly zone since the beginning of talks. Russian
President Vladimir Putin did not say “no” to the proposal, he added.
“What is important is the support that would be given by the 65 member countries of the coalition forces. [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry, in his recent statement, mentioned a no-fly zone. That’s where they would end. They have no other choice,” the president stated.
Turkey was continuing its “train and equip program” for Syrian opposition in order to prepare a “national military,” he said, noting that there were a total of 65,000 fighters.
The Syrian town of al-Rai was cleared of ISIL and moderate Syrian opposition groups had moved into al-Bab with the support of Turkish tanks, Erdoğan stated.
He recalled Turkey’s proposal to establish a 4,500-square-kilometer safe haven which would be 40-45 kilometers in depth towards the south of al-Bab. Turkey could provide housing in this area with financial support from the international community, he added. The PYD had a minor existence in the Manbij region of Syria, the president said.
Asked about a statement by U.S. Minister of Defense Ashton Carter that Washington would continue arming Syrian Kurds, Erdoğan said he raised the issue during a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
“I told Biden that they landed two planes full of arms in Kobane. He said, ‘I am not informed about that.’ I told him, “But I am aware.” Yet, the next day Carter said they had given and will continue to give arms to them [the YPG],” he said.
Elaborating on possible cooperation between Turkey and the U.S. on a joint military offensive on Raqqa, given Ankara
has ruled out the inclusion of the PYD, Erdoğan said interlocutors were discussing the issue.
“We cannot say anything at the moment since we have not clearly seen the attitude of the U.S. But Turkey will not be part of an operation if the U.S. wants to conduct it with the PYD and YPG. But if they do not, we can carry out this struggle along with the U.S.,” he said.
Erdoğan did not elaborate on Turkey’s possible air strike support if the U.S. carried out a land operation with the PYD, saying that he first had to consult with Turkey’s security institutions.