Turkey is offering to "join forces" with Washington for a special operation inside Syria on condition it doesn't include a Syrian Kurdish militia blacklisted by Ankara but seen as an ally by the US, the foreign minister said.
Washington’s support of Kurdish fighters in Syria in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists has angered Ankara, especially after AFP pictures last week revealed US commandos wearing patches of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) outlawed by Turkey.
“If we join forces, they (the US) have their own special forces and we have our special forces,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a small group of journalists.
“The subject we are discussing with the Americans is the closure of the Manbij pocket as soon as possible… and the opening of a second front,” he said, referring to a backdoor border route favoured by IS for smuggling jihadists into and out of Syria.
“We say okay, a second front should be opened but not with the PYD,” he said, referring to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG’s political wing.
Cavusoglu said Syrian Arab opposition forces opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad could be backed up with special forces from Turkey and NATO ally Washington as well as from France, Britain and Germany.
Such a “second front” could “easily” head to the Islamic State’s self-declared capital in Raqa to the south.
“Unfortunately, both Russia and the United States see a terrorist organisation as a partner and support it,” he said of the YPG.
The minister also said that recent deal with Washington, which would have seen American light multiple rocket launchers deployed along its border with Syria to combat Islamic State, had been delayed.
Under the deal, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) was to have been deployed along the Turkish border by the end of May, but Cavusoglu said it would now only happen in August.
“The United States is unfortunately not keeping its promise,” he charged.
“We are completely ready. Not us, but the US is responsible for the delay.”