Turkish FM says comprehensive fight against ISIL to start soon
AFP photoTurkey and the United States “have made progress” on the use of the country’s İncirlik Air Base by American military jets, Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu has said, announcing that a joint comprehensive action on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would commence soon.
“The U.S. planes have started to come; we will soon launch the comprehensive fight against Daesh all together,” Çavuşoğlu told Anadolu Agency in Malaysia on July 5, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
His statement came after holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Çavuşoğlu said ISIL was the biggest threat in the region and had to be dealt with in strategy that is “result-oriented.”
Ankara has so far concentrated an almost two-week “anti-terror” campaign in Iraq on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), widely seen as the most effective fighters against the jihadists, with only sporadic strikes against ISIL.
But Çavuşoğlu indicated that Turkey would be stepping up its campaign against ISIL after it gave permission for U.S. forces to conduct armed missions from İncirlik.
“As part of an agreement with the United States, we have technically made progress concerning the use of İncirlik base,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Çavuşoğlu said at the start of the meeting with Kerry that the operation would be helped by moderate Syrian rebels that the U.S. and Turkey are hoping to jointly train.
“Now we are training and equipping the moderate [Syrian] opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon,” Çavuşoğlu said. “Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh.”
The two top diplomats met at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on the sidelines of a regional security gathering hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Washington has long been pushing its historic ally Turkey to step up the fight against ISIL amid rumblings that Ankara has either aided the jihadists or, at best, failed to arrest its rise.
Kerry “welcomed Turkey’s recent decision to open its bases to U.S. participation in air operations against [the militants] and its support for Syrian refugees,” a senior State Department official told reporters after the meeting.
Last month Ankara said it would allow U.S. warplanes to launch attacks from İncirlik, which is just 200 kilometers from ISIL positions in northern Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week said the formation of a safe zone inside Syria, free from threats, would speed the return of some of the 1.8 million refugees Turkey is hosting.
Çavuşoğlu said the regions cleared of ISIL militants would automatically turn into a “natural safe zone” which would be filled by moderate rebels.
Çavuşoğlu also emphasized steps must be taken for a “political solution” in Syria excluding President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey’s onetime ally who Ankara now wants to see ousted from power.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would visit Ankara next week for talks on regional issues, including the Syrian war.