Turkey not taking part in combat missions against IS: official

Turkey not taking part in combat missions against IS: official
Updated 12 September 2014

Turkey not taking part in combat missions against IS: official

Turkey not taking part in combat missions against IS: official

ANKARA: Turkey will not allow a US-led coalition to attack jihadists in neighboring Iraq and Syria from its air bases, nor will it take part in combat operations against militants, a government official told AFP Thursday.
“Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“Incirlik will be used only for logistical purposes and humanitarian assistance,” the source, referring to a southern air base used for US and NATO operations in Iraq.
The decision echoes Turkey’s refusal in 2003 to abet the US offensive to oust Saddam Hussein, which triggered a crisis between the allies.
Ankara refused to allow Washington to station 60,000 troops in the country to invade Iraq from the north, then denied permission for Washington to use its air bases as a staging post for attacks.
Turkey has come under fire by some critics for indirectly encouraging the formation of the Islamic State because of its support of Islamist opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and its loose control of its borders.
But Ankara vehemently denies its strategy has backfired.

Drumming up support
US Secretary of State John Kerry was holding talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to drum up support from 10 key Arab nations and Turkey, following President Barack Obama’s announcement of a new strategy against Islamic State jihadists that will include now air strikes in Syria.
After a lightning advance, IS militants now control swathes of Iraq and much of northern Syria along the Turkish border.
Turkey now sees itself a victim of the IS with Islamist militants holding 49 Turks hostage, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq on June 11.
Ankara is therefore reluctant to take a stronger role in the coalition against IS militants in apparent fear of aggravating the hostage situation.
“Our hands and arms are tied because of the hostages,” the official told AFP.
“Turkey will not take part in any combat mission, nor supply weapons.”
Though Turkey will refuse use of Incirlik Air Base for lethal air attacks in any US-led operation, it can be used for logistical and humanitarian operations, the official said.
Turkey is the only Muslim country in a coalition of 10 countries who agreed to fight IS at the NATO summit in Newport.
On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held closed-door talks with Turkish officials in Ankara where the government raised fears that weapons sent by Western countries to forces fighting IS in Iraq may end up in the hands of Kurdish separatist rebels.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), branded a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, has joined forces with other Kurdish units in the US-backed operation to halt the advance of IS militants in Syria and Iraq.
“We have ongoing concerns which were conveyed to Hagel,” the source said.


Turkey’s role in stopping the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq has also come under spotlight, but the official said the West had to share intelligence that would allow for their capture.
“Turkey is a country that receives 35 million tourists annually,” the official told AFP.
“Unless the West shares intelligence, we cannot send back anyone just because we don’t like their appearance. Intelligence sharing is our number-one priority which was discussed at the NATO summit.”
Turkey has thus far deported 850 foreign fighters coming from both the East and the West since 2011, according to the official who strongly rebutted criticisms that Turkey was failing adequately to protect its porous border with Syria and Iraq.
“The West’s Syria policy has collapsed and Turkey is trying to be portrayed as a scapegoat,” the official said.
“It is a long, mountainous border which makes it difficult to protect. If we could, we would prevent PKK fighters in Iraq from penetrating into Turkish soil.”
Despite that, Turkey has stepped up the border security, installing surveillance towers, thermal cameras, and night-vision systems, according to the official.
The government source also said Turkey’s backing of the Syrian opposition, seeking Assad’s overthrow, was a necessary strategy to ward off against the jihadists.
“We have been keep saying since the very first day that radicals will be bolstered if the opposition is not supported.”