Middle East, News

“Assad uses ISIS to weaken moderate forces”

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The “failure” of the international community to train and equip the Free Syrian Army has strengthened the Assad regime and the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), the Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Wednesday.

“While the world media focused on the barbaric acts of beheadings, burnings and summary executions, the Assad regime allowed ISIS advances in the northern Syrian territories to weaken the anti-regime forces,” İbrahim Kalın said while speaking at The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization seeks pioneering studies concerning U.S.-Turkey relations.

Kalın said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses ISIS to “divide and weaken the moderate Syrian opposition”.

The chief advisor to Turkey’s president asked “why is ISIS not giving a serious fight against the Assad regime? Why is it not advancing, for instance, towards Damascus, the regime’s capital and stronghold?” in his speech.

Turkey and the U.S. agreed in February to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition as a part of U.S.-led coalition efforts fighting ISIS.

As the program in Turkey is yet to start, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently confirmed that U.S. forces have started to train a group of approximately 90 Syrian rebels but declined to give the location and exact size of the class, citing security concerns.

In his nearly hour-long address, Kalın touched on a range of issues including Turkey’s relations with Egypt, Palestine, Kurds and disarming the outlawed PKK group.

He also addressed Turkey’s desire for European Union membership, saying ”it is a strategic goal for Turkey”.

European countries seek good economic relations and security cooperation with Turkey and “in turn, Turkey wants to maintain good political relations with European capitals and improve its share in European markets”, he said. “As a matter of fact, about 45 percent of Turkey’s foreign trade is with Europe and Turkey is a member of major European institutions,” he added.

Resource: Daily Sabah, May 21, 2015

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