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US, Turkey poised for joint action against IS

August 26, 2015

Turkish officials have said they are now ready to fully participate in US-led coalition strikes against the "Islamic State" group. The Pentagon said joint strikes may begin within days.

Türkei Incirlik Air Base U.S. Air Force F-16
Image: Reuters/U.S. Air Force

US and Turkish officials have concluded "technical talks" over plans to cooperate military operations against the "Islamic State" (IS) terror group, Turkey's foreign minister announced Tuesday.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that US and Turkish officials had come to an agreement concerning "the procedures and technical details" of planned operations against IS.

"The military authorities have signed off," Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu did not provide details on the cooperation, but he said an extensive, coordinated operation against the Islamist militant group would begin soon.

Turkey last month took on a more robust role in the fight against IS, ending months of reluctance. It has carried out air strikes against IS targets in Syria and has permitted the US to use a key air base on the Syrian border in the US-led air campaign against the militant group.

Türkischer Außenminister Cavusoglu
Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said Turkish military authorities "have signed off" on operations against the Islamic State group.Image: AFP/Getty Images/A. Altan

But Turkey's participation in the fight against IS has thus far remained limited and its attention appears focused on fighting the Kurdish separatists of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey's discussions with the US follow a suicide bombing in July, blamed on IS, that claimed the lives of 33 people in the Turkish city of Suruc, and an attack on Turkish border security forces, which killed one soldier.

US fighter jets launched their first air strikes from the Turkish air base of Incirlik early this month. The base, which is just a short distance from IS targets in northern Syria, has also been used as a staging area for armed US drone attacks.

The agreement with Turkey calls for the NATO ally to be fully integrated into the coalition air campaign, according to Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.

Cook said Turkey is "committed to fully participating" in military operations against IS, but that the agreement does not include proposals for Turkey to control its borders with Iraq and Syria to stem the flow of foreign fighters into both countries. He added it would likely take "a few days" to implement the agreement.

"Our cooperation with Turks and expansion of that cooperation remains a work in progress at this point," Cook said, adding that the US did not discuss with Turkey the creation of a safe zone in which IS fighters could be swept from a strip along the Turkish-Syrian border.

bw/lw (AP, AFP)