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Turkey says ready to begin anti-IS offensive with US

Turkey today announced that it was ready to begin a “comprehensive” fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria alongside the United States, after a months of staying on the sidelines of the US-led coalition.

Ankara, long criticised for failing to stop the flow of jihadists to-and-fro across its border with Syria, has so far concentrated an almost two-week “anti-terror” campaign on the bombing of Kurdish militants.

But Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated that Turkey would be stepping up its campaign against IS jihadists after it gave permission for US forces to conduct armed missions from its Incirlik air base.

“As part of an agreement with the United States, we have technically made progress concerning the use of Incirlik base,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the official Anatolia news agency after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry in Malaysia.

“The US planes have begun arriving and soon we will launch a comprehensive fight against Daesh all together,” he said, using a pejorative Arabic acronym for IS.

Ankara is waging a two-pronged bombing campaign against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels as well as IS militants, following a wave of violence inside Turkey.

But so far the raids have overwhelmingly targeted the Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey, to the dismay of those who want to see Ankara play a fuller role in the US-led coalition against IS.

Cavusoglu said at the start of the meeting with Kerry that the operation would be helped by moderate Syrian rebels that the US and Turkey are hoping to jointly train.

“Now we are training and equipping the moderate (Syrian) opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon,” Cavusoglu said.

“Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh.”

The two top diplomats met at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on the sidelines of a regional security gathering hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.