Turkey says US-led programme to train Syrian opposition experiences 'minor delay'
ISTANBUL - Reuters
Rebel fighters drive a tank near the frontline in the village of Ratyan in the countryside north of the Syrian city of Aleppo on February 19, 2015. AFP PhotoA U.S.-led programme to train Syrian opposition forces to fight hardline Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants, which was due to begin earlier this month, has experienced "a minor delay", Turkey's foreign minister said on March 27.
"There is no delay from our side," Mevlut Cavuşoglu said in an interview with Turkey's NTV television. "Because of U.S. [geographic] distance, there has been a minor delay but everything is fine both politically and technically," he said.
U.S. officials have said they plan to train about 5,000 Syrian fighters annually for three years under the programme, which was due to begin in March after Washington signed a deal with Ankara.
Turkey hopes the training will also bolster the weakened and divided Syrian opposition in its war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey would also be open to contributions from a third country to the programme, Çavusoğlu said, a day after Britain's Defense Minister said London would send around 75 military personnel to join the training.
"No decision has been made on this. But if such a proposal comes from Britain, we would assess this and in principal we would not say 'No' to this, we would be sympathetic," he said.