Kerry coming to Turkey to twist arms on ISIL cooperation

 Kerry coming to Turkey to twist arms on ISIL cooperation
# 11 September 2014 18:18 (UTC +04:00)

According to experts following Turkish-American relations, Kerry is arriving on Friday afternoon to meet with his new counterpart Foreign Minister Mevlüt ÇavuÅŸoÄŸlu and other high-level Turkish officials. ÇavuÅŸoÄŸlu reportedly discussed a range of issues with Kerry by phone this week, including the ISIL threat, according to Foreign Ministry sources.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement late on Thursday confirming that Kerry will visit Turkey on Sept. 12-13

According to the statement, Kerry is scheduled to meet with ÇavuÅŸoÄŸlu and will then be received by President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan and Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu in Ankara. “In these meetings, we will discuss bilateral, regional and global issues as well as opportunities to further develop our relations and cooperation,” the Foreign Ministry said.

In an unexpected move, Kerry arrived by helicopter in Baghdad on Wednesday to what he called “the heart” of the fight against radical ISIL militants, following the formation of the new unity government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who took office this week.

For Washington, the unity government is a chance to correct the mistakes of the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which favored Shiites over Kurds and Sunnis and contributed to the frustrations which have led to some Sunni groups joining ISIL.

Kerry then visited Saudi Arabia, which has agreed to train moderate Syrian rebels against the ISIL threat as part of US President Barack Obama's strategy to combat the militants. On Wednesday night Obama publicly outlined an expanded campaign against ISIL, which will include military strikes in Syria.

Also on Wednesday, a senior US State Department official spoke to the press about the reasons behind Kerry's regional tour, saying: "We may need enhanced basing and overflights. ... There's going to be a meeting soon of defense ministers to work on these details."

Turkey is in close proximity to ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria and the US is looking for wider overflight permission from Iraq and Syria's neighbors for military strikes against ISIL.

Turkey claims that its hands are tied due to the 46 Turkish citizens and three Iraqis who were kidnapped by ISIL from Turkey's Consulate General in Mosul about three months ago. Turkish officials have imposed a gag order on the Turkish media over the hostage issue, claiming that they do not want news stories putting the hostages' lives at risk. With this move, the government has effectively prevented the press from questioning any failures by Turkish officials in this issue.

However, the US administration is pushing Turkey to get actively involved in the fight against ISIL. In a Sunday interview with the NBC television station, Obama clarified what he wants, saying: “We're going to need Sunni states to step up, not just Saudi Arabia -- our partners like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey. They need to be involved. This is their neighborhood. The dangers that are posed are more directed at them right now than they are us.”

Before Kerry, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel paid a visit to Turkey on Monday to talk about the possible ways that Turkey can contribute to the fight against ISIL. Hagel met with Turkish officials and pushed for increased cooperation from Turkey.

ARABAÅžLIK: Yeni Åžafak claims no contribution from Turkey

In the meantime, pro-government daily Yeni Åžafak ran a story on Thursday claiming that Turkey will not be part of a core coalition led by the US against ISIL, following a security meeting on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu on Wednesday chaired a security meeting that was attended by top government and military officials to discuss Turkey's role in a possible multi-nation coalition.

In the meeting, which was not announced beforehand, DavutoÄŸlu hosted Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, force commanders, Defense Minister Ä°smet Yılmaz, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun SinirlioÄŸlu and National Intelligence Organization (MÄ°T) head Hakan Fidan.

According to Yeni Åžafak, Turkish officials have agreed to provide support behind the scenes and be a silent partner of the US to avoid risking the lives of the Turkish citizens held hostage by ISIL. Yeni Åžafak also claimed that Hagel went back to Washington “empty-handed” after his recent visit to Turkey.

US officials are working on forming a coalition to go after ISIL militarily and financially.

The French news agency Agence France-Press (AFP) also reported on Thursday that Turkey has confirmed that it will not become involved in any military operations against ISIL and has refused to allow the US to use Turkish territory to launch combat missions. AFP obtained the information from a source only identified as a Turkish government official.

“Turkey will not be involved in any armed operations but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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