Turkey, US mull options in joint anti-ISIL fight
Serkan DEMİRTAŞ - ANKARA
AP photoTurkey and the United States are continuing to mull over options to intensify ongoing cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), after the jihadists started to advance along the populous Mare-Jarablus line, pushing Turkey to reinforce its military presence on the Syrian border.
Senior Turkish and American officials have concluded two-day long talks in Ankara, with the participation of U.S. President Barack Obama’s special coordinator in the fight against the ISIL, Gen. John Allen, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu.
“As part of the international coalition in the fight against ISIL, Turkey has long been working with its NATO ally, the United States. In the latest meetings, issues on deepening these works, and reinforcing cooperation and coordination were discussed,” a Turkish official told following the meetings.
“Options for further intensification of this cooperation were also discussed, in light of recent developments in the region,” said the official.
The statement followed intensive talks at the Foreign Ministry that went on for more than eight hours on July 7 and for the entire afternoon of July 8.
The visit of Allen and other U.S. officials to Turkey follows President Obama’s statement on July 6 that emphasized Washington’s determination to eliminate ISIL in Syria. A U.S. source had described the meetings as focused on “the ongoing cooperation to degrade and defeat ISIL.”
Military options on the table
ISIL’s march toward northwest Syria since mid-June, threatening the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) control in the populous region, have seriously disturbed Turkey because of a fresh potential massive refugee influx. The Turkish military reinforced its presence in the region and prepared plans for establishing a security zone inside Syria - both to host fleeing Syrian refugees within their own territories and to deter ISIL’s further advance.
In coordination with Turkey, U.S. jetfighters launched aerial strikes against ISIL in a bid to stop the jihadists’ advance in the region. This is the recent development that the Turkish official referred to in describing talks with the Americans that included options to further intensify cooperation and coordination.
One of the most important requests that Washington has long been pressing is the use of Turkish military bases, particularly the İncirlik base, as well as of Turkish airspace, as part of its aerial campaign against ISIL.
In return, Ankara has demanded U.S. assistance in establishing secure zones inside Syria and their protection by air.
“An agreement [on the use of İncirlik] could be possible if we can agree on other terms as well,” an official told the Hürriyet Daily News.