US nudges Turkey to play more active role in fighting IS
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2014 - 8:00pm

ANKARA (Xinhua) - The United States has made progress in enlisting a reluctant ally, Turkey, in the battle against Islamic State (IS) militants after Secretary of State John Kerry dropped in on Turkish leaders on Friday to drum up support.

"The two countries will continue to fight terrorist organizations in the region as in the past," the Turkish president's office said in a statement, after Kerry's 2.5-hour-long meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In this regard, Turkey will continue to share intelligence with the United States, give logistical support to the Syrian opposition and humanitarian aid to the victims of the war in Syria, it added.

Washington sees Turkey, the only Muslim nation within NATO, as crucial in the fight against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and has been trying to convince Turkey to provide vital cooperation, including broader overflight permissions and logistical support.

On Wednesday, a senior US State Department official spoke to the press about Kerry's regional tour which included Ankara, saying: "We may need enhanced basing and overflights... There's going to be a meeting soon of defense ministers to work on these details."

Ankara's apparent shift in its position came one day after its failure to sign a final communique against the ISIL that was agreed by 10 Arab states in Jeddah.

Turkey has been sensitive to the issue since IS militants still hold 49 Turkish hostages, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq this June.

According to Turkish daily Milliyet, Turkey will not actively support the US-led campaign against the IS, but will provide intelligence support.

The fact that Turkey has a long and porous border with Syria and that IS militants may stage terror attacks against Turkish interests is also an important reason for Turkey's reluctance to join the US-led coalition.

But some in Turkey believed there is a larger problem of ideological affinity between Ankara and Islamist groups in the Middle East.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, seen by many as an Islamist government, has been at odds with Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, over the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood leader from power by the military. Ankara also supports Muslim Brotherhood in other Arab countries.

Perhaps that was the reason behind a flurry of meetings and phone conversations between Turkish and American officials last week.

The United States wants to make sure Turkey is committed to the fight against the IS as they try to hammer out the scope and extent of cooperation with Turkey.

US President Barack Obama met with Erdogan for an hour and a half last Friday on the sidelines of the NATO meeting in Wales, Britain.

On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was in Ankara to press Turkey a bit more.

A US official in Ankara said the United States respects the important counter-terrorism partner.  


 

ANKARA ANKARA AND ISLAMIST IRAQ AND THE LEVANT ISLAMIC STATE JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY MIDDLE EAST MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ON MONDAY TURKEY TURKISH UNITED STATES
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