Erdogan signals Turkey could give military support against ISIL
Turkey could give military or logistical support to US-led air strikes against so-called Islamic State (ISIL) militants in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Tuesday, Today's Zaman reported.
"We will give the necessary support to the operation. The support could be military or logistics," Erdogan was quoted by Turkish broadcaster NTV as telling reporters in New York.
He also welcomed air strikes on ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, saying that the strikes should continue "uninterruptedly."
The United States and its Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time on Tuesday, killing scores of ISIL militants and members of a separate al-Qaeda-linked group, opening a new front against militants by joining Syria's three-year-old civil war.
NATO ally Turkey, which is alarmed by ISIL but also worried about Kurdish militants and opposed to any action that might help Syrian President Bashar al Assad, had so far refused a military role in the coalition.
Turkey is home to a major US base in the southern town of İncirlik, which officials have said has not been used so far in any lethal strikes in Iraq or Syria.
Turkish officials has said its hands were tied while 46 of its citizens were held hostage by ISIL militants in northern Iraq, including its consul general in Mosul, soldiers and diplomats' children.
On Saturday, Turkish intelligence agents brought the hostages back to Turkey after more than three months in captivity, in what Erdogan described as a covert rescue operation.
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in New York at a counterterrorism forum, said Turkey, too, has joined the coalition and "will be very engaged on the front lines of this effort."
"Clearly, Turkey had an initial challenge with respect to its hostages and that being resolved, now Turkey is ready to conduct additional efforts along with the rest of us in order to guarantee success," Kerry said.
Turkey had already indicated its support for the coalition but said it would play a largely humanitarian and logistical role, including trying to stem the flow of foreign fighters travelling through its territory to join the extremists in Iraq and Syria.
"Turkey is still determining what its posture is going to be," a senior US Obama administration official, speaking on background, told reporters on Tuesday.
"At minimum, we certainly want their full cooperation and effort to crack down on the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. Turkey's been a transit point for ... foreign fighters, so we've had discussions with them on that issue."
Turkish authorities have drawn up a "no-entry" list of 6,000 people, some as young as 14, based largely on intelligence from Western agencies, and have deported more than 500 suspected of seeking to join the extremists this year alone.