Turkey, US pledge joint struggle against terror
ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Çankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara, Sept. 12. AA PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Ankara on Sept. 12 to shape the strategy in the fight against jihadists in Iraq and Syria, as Turkey reiterated its readiness for “merely humanitarian assistance” in the region, instead of getting involved in combat operations.
In a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kerry, Ankara and Washington agreed to continue sharing intelligence, according to sources from the presidency. Cooperation between Turkey and U.S. against terrorist organizations will continue, they added.
Sources also said parties have decided to lend support to Syrian opposition. In the visit, which came after Turkey said it would not allow its air bases to be used for strikes on extremists, Kerry also held a series of meetings with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Speaking to the press prior to a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Kerry said Ankara and Washington would continue talks on the issue of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and support for the Iraqi government. “We will also be chairing a counter-terrorism forum at the U.N. Security Council in a few days,” Kerry told reporters in Ankara.
“We are important partners, but not just in NATO. We have concerns with respect to what is happening in Libya, Mali, the horn of Africa, throughout the Middle East, and of course the events in Iraq. So we have a great deal to talk about,” he added.
Turkey is reluctant to take part in combat operations against ISIL militants, or allow a U.S.-led coalition to attack jihadists using its air bases in Incirlik, Diyarbakır and Malatya due to the 49 Turkish hostages, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq in June by ISIL militants.
Ankara has offered to contribute merely to humanitarian operations and use of its territory of non-lethal logistics needs of the coalition, even excluding any training of the Iraqi army for its fight against the jihadist group.
In the meeting, Çavuşoğlu stressed that Turkey was “always ready to make humanitarian contributions in the region” regarding the issue, a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Kerry’s visit was not specifically made to convince Turkey, since the U.S. is aware of Ankara’s sensitivities, according to the same diplomat.
“We are a country of democracy. Turkey and the U.S. understand each other,” he said, adding that Çavuşoğlu spoke with Kerry about the mistakes previously made in Iraq, particularly citing problems with “sectarian approaches” to the country.
“We are cautious because of the hostages,” another Turkish diplomat had told the Daily News on the eve of the talks with Kerry in Ankara.
Arab allies of the United States agreed on Sept. 11 to “do their share” to fight ISIL, promising to take action to stop the flow of fighters and funding to the insurgents and possibly to join military action. Turkey attended the meeting but did not sign the final communique due to its concerns regarding the Turkish hostages.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who represented Turkey in Jeddah, called Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu when he noticed that the joint statement included a strong call for military action against ISIL.
In an interview recorded on Sept. 11 with the BBC, Kerry said Turkey is “very engaged and ... very involved,” and expressed confidence that concerns and questions ultimately will be resolved.
“But I think for the moment they have a few sensitive issues,” Kerry said. “We respect those sensitive issues, and we’re going to work with them very carefully.”