Erdogan tells Obama that Turkey is targeting IS in Raqqa
Published 27/10/2016 | 12:46
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told his US counterpart that Turkey is ready to kick the Islamic State group out of their capital Raqqa in Syria.
The president said on Thursday that Turkey-backed opposition fighters inside Syria will eventually reach Raqqa after securing the towns of al-Bab and Manbij.
"Last night we had a long conversation with Obama and shared our plans with him . We said, 'Come let's kick Daesh out of Raqqa together'," President Erdogan said - referring to the Arabic acronym for the IS group.
President Erdogan added that he called for the operation to take place without involvement of Syrian Kurdish forces.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militias an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels, though the US regards them as the most effective ground force in the fight against IS.
Turkey's defence minister later reiterated Ankara's objections to having Syrian Kurdish fighters participate in an operation to capture the Islamic State group stronghold of Raqqa.
The minister, Fikri Isik, suggested that instead of the Kurds, Turkish-backed forces can present an "alternative".
Mr Isik also said that Turkey "would insist until the end" that the Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG be kept out of the battle for Raqqa.
Mr Isik says that "Turkey has the capacity to form an alternative ... a sufficient force will be formed with the people of the region" - especially the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition.
His comments were carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Meanwhile, a UN humanitarian aid official for Syria says efforts will be renewed to secure the evacuation of nearly 200 wounded and allow medical and food supplies into the besieged rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo.
Jan Egeland says the UN team is "not giving up".
He said lack of trust, fear and misunderstandings - as well as unacceptable preconditions - have spoiled the efforts in the past.
Airstrikes by Russian and Syrian government planes on Aleppo have been halted for nine days now in expectations of the evacuations - but efforts have failed because Syrian rebels say there have been no safety guarantees for the evacuees.
The rebels also say Russia and the government are not allowing aid into the besieged, eastern rebel-held districts of Aleppo that are home to some 275,000 people.