Saturday 18 November 2017

Turkey finally joins the war on Isil with deal on US air strikes

A Turkish police officer asks questions to a young Kurdish boy after an attack against Turkish police officers in the centre of Diyarbakir
A Turkish police officer asks questions to a young Kurdish boy after an attack against Turkish police officers in the centre of Diyarbakir

Nabih Bulos in Beirut

Turkey has joined the fight against Isil, giving permission for US jets and drones to use its territory to target the jihadists in neighbouring Syria.

The decision, disclosed by the 'Wall Street Journal', came at the end of a week which saw Isil's war move on to Turkish territory for the first time.

Following Monday's bombing of a Kurdish gathering in the Turkish town of Suruc, which killed 32 people, there was an exchange of fire yesterday across the Syrian border, which Turkish authorities said left one of their soldiers and an Isil fighter dead.

Earlier in the day, the Turkish cabinet, which has been accused of supporting Isil in its determination to see the overthrow of Syria's Assad regime, had agreed to build a wall along the border to stop the flow of fighters.

That followed a telephone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which permission was apparently given for the US to use its base at Incirlik, near the border with Syria, for allied air raids on Isil.

Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said there would be a "renewed effort" to "avoid the entry of terrorists and the foreign fighters and to ease humanitarian passages".

"A physical security system will be established along the border," Mr Arinc added.

Tensions have been building since Monday's attack in Suruc, a town six miles from the Turkish-Syrian border further east from Kilis and near the closest point in Turkey to Isil's de facto capital Raqqa, less than two hours' drive away.

The bomb attack on Monday targeted a gathering of young Kurdish and Turkish activists planning to cross into Syria to help rebuild areas of the Kurdish-majority town of Kobane, devastated by months of fighting with Isil militants.

A wave of violence followed the suspected Isil suicide bombing. Kurdish militants have retaliated by targeting police officers they accuse of collaborating with Isil.

One police officer was shot and killed and a second wounded yesterday in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, north-east of Suruc.

On Wednesday, two police officers were killed in a town on the Syrian border and militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) claimed responsibility.

The new border barrier will include a concrete wall topped with barbed wire, a dedicated patrol road, and a strengthened fence.

It will also have 24-hour surveillance with drones, surveillance vehicles and a command and control centre.

Local media reported that Turkey's Interior Ministry had sent 20m Lira (€6.5m) to the border towns to start work on the project.

It is a dramatic reversal of previous practice, under which Syrian refugees - but also fighters - crossed fields between the two neighbours under the gaze of Turkish border guards.

It also seems to contradict leaked Turkish proposals for dealing with the crisis, under which it would set up a buffer zone in northern Syria against both Isil and the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, Iraq has for the first time deployed troops trained by the US-led coalition in its campaign to retake the city of Ramadi from Isil militants.

More than 3,000 soldiers have been sent to the front line, alongside 500 Sunni tribesmen, whose training by Iraqis was overseen by US troops. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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