Turkey to join military campaign against ISIL: Erdoğan
Erdoğan speaks at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Sept. 23. AA PhotoTurkey could lend military or logistical support to U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quoted as saying on Sept. 23, signaling a potential shift in Ankara’s stance on the issue.
“We will give the necessary support to the operation. This could be military or logistical,” Erdoğan was quoted as telling reporters in New York.
The United States and its Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time earlier on the same day, targeting members of a separate al-Qaeda-linked group, along with ISIL, opening a new front against militants and directly intervening in Syria’s three-year-old civil war.
Turkey has so far refused a military role in the coalition, citing domestic concerns.
Erdoğan’s remarks came days ahead of his crucial Sept. 25 meeting with U.S Vice President Joe Biden.
Turkey is home to a major U.S. base in the southern town of İncirlik, which officials says has not been used so far in any lethal strikes in Iraq or Syria.
Erdoğan said Turkey viewed the U.S.-led action positively and stressed it should continue.
“We are not a country that is outside of the region,” he also said in a separate interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, justifying Ankara’s caution on the issue. “The fire is burning in our region. A total of 1.5 million refugees are not in the U.S., Germary or France, but Turkey.”
Erdoğan said Turkish executives were in talks with their U.S. counterparts on how Turkey could contribute to the fight against ISIL.
Turkish officials had said the country’s hands were tied while 46 of its citizens were held hostage by ISIL militants in northern Iraq, including its consul general in Mosul. However, on Sept. 20, Turkish intelligence agents brought the hostages back to Turkey after 101 days of captivity, raising questions about whether Ankara might commit more wholeheartedly to the military coalition.
“Clearly, Turkey had an initial challenge with respect to its hostages. That being resolved, Turkey is now ready to conduct additional efforts along with the rest of us in order to guarantee success,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a recent counter-terrorism forum.
“Turkey is still determining what its posture is going to be,” a senior U.S. Obama administration official, speaking on background, told reporters Sept. 23.
“At minimum, we certainly want their full cooperation and effort to crack down on the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s been a transit point for ... foreign fighters, so we’ve had discussions with them on that issue,” the official added.
Erdoğan spoke on the sidelines of an annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations, hours after U.S. and Arab allies launched airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria.
Erdoğan told journalists that Turkey was now considering a role that “includes everything. Both military and political,” Doğan News Agency reported.
“Of course we will do our part,” he said.