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U.S., Turkey discuss stepping up anti-ISIS fight

A U.S. embassy official said the Washington delegation held two days of “constructive meetings” with Turkish counterparts

Published: Updated:

A high-level U.S. delegation discussed with Turkish officials ways to step up the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria during two days of talks in Ankara, sources said Wednesday.

Retired general John Allen -- a US presidential envoy -- and Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Christine Wormuth met Turkish military officials and foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu in the Turkish capital.

“We discussed ways of strengthening the fight against Daesh,” a Turkish diplomatic source told AFP, asking not to be named and using an Arabic acronym for IS.

“The parties had an exchange of views on reinforcing cooperation and coordination on this.”

A US embassy official said the Washington delegation held two days of “constructive meetings” with Turkish counterparts.

They discussed “our mutual efforts as part of a broad coalition to degrade and destroy ISIL,” the official said, using another term for IS.

Turkey -- NATO’s only majority Muslim member -- has stayed out of active participation in the US-led coalition assisting Kurdish forces in the fight against IS, causing irritation in Washington.

According to Turkey’s Hurriyet daily, the US side at the meetings once again requested Turkey’s permission to use the Incirlik base in the south of the country for air strikes against IS in Syria.

Hurriyet said the Turkish government said it wanted to be kept informed of operations by the coalition in real time and that attacks on populated areas be avoided to prevent more refugees fleeing to Turkey.

Analysts say that Ankara is keeping its distance from the US-led campaign against IS as it is wary of aiding Kurdish forces and also fears that jihadists could launch revenge attacks inside Turkey.

Ankara is wary of the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria, fearing the growing power of Kurdish forces there will embolden Turkey’s own Kurdish minority.

Turkey has reinforced its military presence on the volatile Syrian border over the past week, deploying tanks and anti-aircraft missiles there as well as additional troops.

Reports last week said the Turkish military could push into Syria to create a buffer zone dozens of kilometres inside Syrian territory to ensure Turkish security and house some of the 1.8 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday ruled out any prospect of an immediate intervention in Syria, but said Turkey would respond if its security was threatened.