Turkey, U.S. to give air cover for Syrian rebels

Davutoglu said Turkey and the United States have agreed to provide air cover for 'moderate' Syrian rebels fighting Islamist militants

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Turkey and the United States have agreed to provide air cover for "moderate" Syrian rebels fighting Islamist militants, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said late Sunday after Turkish warplanes took off for a new wave of air raids on bases of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

Davutoglu also said Turkey does not intend to send ground troops to Syria.

"If we are not going to send in land units on the ground, and we will not, then those forces acting as ground forces cooperating with us should be protected," Davutoglu was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as telling Turkish media editors.

He also said the Democratic Union Party (PYD) can "have a place" in the new Syria if they cut ties to the embattled President Bashar al-Assad's regime, cooperate with opposition, and not disturb its neighboring Turkey.

Before his latest statements, the premier said military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria and PKK in Iraq have “changed the regional game.”

Turkey attacked Kurdish insurgent camps in Iraq for a second night on Sunday, security sources said, in a campaign that could end its peace process with PKK.

Ankara, which called for a special NATO meeting on Tuesday to discuss its security concerns, said two of soldiers were killed and four wounded in the latest attack by PKK militants.

NATO Security General Jens Stoltenberg called for the emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss security at the request of Turkey.

Turkey, the only Muslim-majority member of the security alliance, is currently targeting ISIS and PKK positions in Syria and Iraq respectively, while in Ankara, some officials are mulling the creation of a "safe zone" protecting Turkey's borders from militants.

NATO said in a statement on Sunday that the North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 28 NATO allies, would meet following a request by Turkey to hold consultations under Article 4 of NATO's founding Washington Treaty.

"Turkey requested the meeting in view of the seriousness of the situation after the heinous terrorist attacks in recent days, and also to inform allies of the measures it is taking," NATO said.

"NATO allies follow developments very closely and stand in solidarity with Turkey."

In Article 4, members are encouraged to bring subjects to the table for discussion for political consultation. Since the alliance's creation in 1949, it has been invoked several times, such as by Turkey in 2003 and in 2012, and Poland in 2014.

Germany, the Netherlands and the United States each sent two Patriot anti-missile batteries and soldiers to operate them at the start of 2013 after Turkey asked for NATO help in increasing border security due to the civil war in Syria.

The article reads: "The parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened."

It is less potent than Article 5, which recognizes an attack against one or more members as an attack against all.

(With Reuters)

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