KUALA LUMPUR: Turkey will soon start combating Islamic State group militants inside northern Syria, its foreign minister vowed Wednesday as he met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Malaysia.
“Now we are training and equipping the moderate (Syrian) opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at the start of the meeting with Kerry, using the Arab acronym for the militant group.
“Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh on the ground,” he added.
The two envoys met at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on the sidelines of a regional security gathering hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Washington has long been pushing its historic ally Turkey to step up the fight against the so-called Islamic State, something Ankara had until recently been reluctant to do.
That position changed after deadly attacks inside Turkey, some of which were blamed on Islamic State.
Turkey has since carried out a series of air strikes, claiming they were targeting militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq as well as Islamic State militants.
But observers say PKK fighters have been on the receiving end of far more airstrikes than IS.
“(Kerry) welcomed Turkey’s recent decision to open its bases to US participation in air operations against (Islamic State) and its support for Syrian refugees,” a senior State Department officials told reporters, in summarising the meeting.
“The secretary also reiterated US commitment to promoting conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria.”
Last month Ankara said it would allow US warplanes to launch attacks against Islamic State from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.
The moves marked a significant increase in Turkey’s role in the fight against the militants, who have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.
Turkey shares a 500-mile (800-kilometre) border with Syria, and a section of its southern frontier abuts directly with territory controlled by the IS group.