Train-equip program not enough for Syria and Iraq: Turkish FM

Train-equip program not enough for Syria and Iraq: Turkish FM

Train-equip program not enough for Syria and Iraq: Turkish FM

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A program to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters is not enough to save Syria and Iraq on its own, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said June 4.

“We should save Syria and Iraq. It would be an over-optimistic approach if we depend merely on the train and equip program,” the minister told news broadcaster A Haber.

The root of the instability, the Syrian government, should be eliminated, he said.

The Syrian opposition fighters that are trained and equipped should enter Syria through a secure area and be protected from airstrikes from the government. 

Turkish and U.S. officials are still in discussions about the issue, the minister said.

“These people will return [to Syria]. A decision should be given as soon as possible,” he added. 

Turkey has launched a training program for national guards in Iraq’s Mosul province as part of the struggle against Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) militants, he said.

The training is taking place around 25 kilometers from Mosul, which is under ISIL control, the minister said.

In 2014, Turkey began participating in the training of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq, while also
providing some non-lethal military assistance for the Iraqi army.

The minister also dismissed media reports that suggested that some 1,000 Syrian rebels refused to join the train-equip program and quit because the U.S. condition was to only fight against ISIL, not against Syrian forces. 

Meanwhile, remarks by a U.N. spokesman about arms shipments to warring Syrian forces were not directed at Turkey, the minister said. 

“It is not true that the remarks [by U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric] were directed at Turkey as stories published in one or two newspapers said. The spokesman just recalled the U.N.’s resolutions and its position on this issue. He did not say these things in a press conference. This was a remark in response to a question asked as he walked in a hallway,” he said.

Daily Cumhuriyet reignited a scandal last week when it broadcast photos and video showing members of the gendarmerie discovering ammunition in trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) that were on their way to Syria.

“When the international organizations want to make such statements, they either hold a press conference, or they answer a question in a press event, or they make a written statement,” the minister said.

The minister also refuted claims that Turkey offered to host deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Turkey.  Ankara proposed that Morsi be released from prison and be sent to a third country, he said. “But we did not refer to Turkey,” he added.