Middle East, News

Turkey strikes ISIS as part of coalition

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Turkey and the U.S. started an extensive fight against ISIS in Syria with Turkish fighter jets targeting ISIS positions in Syria with the U.S.-led coalition over the weekend. Simultaneously, PKK terrorists increased attacks, leaving several civilians and four officers dead and wounding dozens of people.

Turkey and the U.S. started an extensive fight against ISIS in Syria with Turkish fighter jets targeting ISIS targets in Syria with the U.S.-led coalition over the weekend, as Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced earlier this month. Simultaneously, PKK terrorists increased attacks, leaving several civilians, including a 13-year-old boy, and four police officers dead.

The Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that Turkey’s warplanes carried out their first airstrikes as part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Syria. The statement said the jets that began attacking ISIS targets late Friday are deemed to be threats to Turkey across the border in Syria. The statement read: “The struggle with terror groups is Turkey’s priority in terms of national security. This struggle will continue with determination.” Based on local activists’ eyewitness accounts, media reported that Turkish jets struck seven ISIS targets in northern Aleppo in Syria on Friday, and two jets pulverized four ISIS targets on Saturday.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that the Turkish Air Force strikes “were fully integrated” into the coalition’s campaign. “We commend Turkey for its participation in counter-[ISIS] air operations alongside other coalition nations in the international campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat [ISIS],” Cook said in a statement.Pentagon official Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Thursday that American and Turkish military experts have put the final touches on an agreement signed earlier this week and that Turkish jets will soon fly alongside U.S.-led coalition aircraft in the fight against the ISIS terrorist organization. “I am not going to give you days and hours, but very soon,” he said, explaining that Turkey’s participation would give the coalition the ability to fly more missions in the air campaign against the militant group.

The Foreign Ministry also confirmed on Thursday the U.S. and Turkey’s joint operations against ISIS. At a press conference in Ankara, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç said that joint operations were to begin in the near future. “Once the targets are determined, the required intelligence must be made, which will then be followed by an operation. Turkey and the U.S. have announced their agreement on the technical details, thus it is obvious for all to expect joint airstrikes to begin in the near future,” Bilgiç had said.

Çavuşoğlu said there are no contradictions between Turkey and the U.S. and “how the joint operations will be realized is a matter for the military and its related institutions.”

The agreement between Ankara and Washington in part allows the latter to conduct manned and unmanned flights out of İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey and for Turkish jets to conduct airstrikes against ISIS. Last month, Turkey conducted solo airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, but the agreement with the U.S. has set a common targeting process that integrates Turkish jets into the coalition force.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said that Turkey would continue its anti-terror operations against terrorist organizations such as the PKK and ISIS “at full speed.”

“All [PKK] terrorists will either leave the country or lay down and bury their arms,” he said.

In an article in the Washington Post early this month, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, “All terrorist organizations that target Turkey must know that their acts will not go unpunished and that we will respond to their acts with full resolve, as we have every right to under international law.”

The prime minister outlined Turkey’s stance against terrorism, particularly against ISIS and the PKK. He said that the reconciliation process with the PKK could not be resolved until PKK militants laid down their arms, ended their violent attacks and removed their armed elements from Turkey.

“PKK terrorism must stop, and it should take its armed elements out of Turkey. As our history teaches [us], we will always look for ways to peacefully resolve potential conflicts. But when we are threatened, we will act unreservedly, with every means at our disposal, until the enemy is defeated,” he added.

About Turkey’s partnership with the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, he said that it aimed to “take the fight more effectively to the terrorists.” He said that when ISIS is pushed back from the Turkish-Syrian border it will not only degrade the militant group but also provide “a lifeline to the moderate Syrian opposition who are the only actors on the ground fighting both [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s regime and ISIS.”

Holding the Assad regime responsible for the current chaos that he claimed “led to the emergence of ISIS,” Davutoğlu said that a political change based on the principles of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué must be reached soon. “This is the only way more large-scale bloodshed can be prevented,” he said.

Resource: Daily Sabah, August 30, 2015

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