Turkey keen to cooperate with Russia against Islamic State forces

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that Turkey will restart operations soon against Islamic State forces and is keen to cooperate with Russia against the extremist group.

Even before the recent crisis in relations between Moscow and Ankara, Turkey had called on Russia to work "together" against the extremist group, Cavusoglu said in an interview on broadcaster NTV, adding that a proposal is "on the table" for future cooperation.

"The terrorist organization is our common enemy," he said.

Russia is carrying out operations in Syria but has largely focused on Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad, who is closely allied with Moscow.

Turkey, after much prodding, opened its southern Incirlik airbase, near the border with Syria, for the US-led coalition against Islamic State and has announced attacks against the group in Syria.

The Incirlik airbase was used in the July 15 coup attempt by rogue soldiers, prompting a brief closure and the arrest of the base commander. It was reopened to US flights shortly afterward, but Turkey has scaled down its own involvement in recent weeks.

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Ankara looking to reset relations with Moscow after downing a Russian fighter jet in November near the border with Syria.

Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey and Russia - who are backing opposing sides in Syria - set up committees to discuss the war torn country, with the first sessions to take place this week.

Turkey's initiative to mend ties with Russia has caused some consternation in the West over the NATO member's positions, but Turkish officials have stressed they are not looking to abandon their ties to the West.

However, Cavusoglu was outspoken against "NATO countries, who are our allies" which removed Patriot missile batteries from Turkey last year.

Germany and the US started pulling out at the end of last year, despite increased Russian military activity in neighbouring Syria.

Spain, another NATO member, continues to keep its missiles in Turkey and is committed until the end of this year.

US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said Thursday that the US has "been very clear that if Russia is really interested in taking the fight to [Islamic State], to combating a terror threat that frankly involves the entire global community, we would welcome their interest in that."

"You know, we've had doubts in the past ... let's see where this goes."

Last update: Thu, 11/08/2016 - 23:42

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