x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Turkey and US start talks over possible Syria action

Turkey has expressed concern about the influx of Syrian refugees over the border, while the US is concerned that Syria's chemical weapons could be used against anti-government forces or fall into the hands of Islamist extremists.

An elderly Syrian man, who fled his home due to the civil war, takes refuge at the Bab Al Salameh border crossing with hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey. Another 74,112 Syrian refugees are housed in Turkey.
An elderly Syrian man, who fled his home due to the civil war, takes refuge at the Bab Al Salameh border crossing with hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey. Another 74,112 Syrian refugees are housed in Turkey.

ISTANBUL // Diplomats, military officers and intelligence officials from Turkey and the United States started talks in Ankara yesterday about possible action in Syria.

A Turkish diplomat confirmed the meeting took place but did not provide details.

Turkey has expressed concern about the influx of Syrian refugees over the border, while the US is concerned that Syria's chemical weapons could be used against anti-government forces or fall into the hands of Islamist extremists.

According to a statement by Turkey's official disaster relief body, Afad, 74,112 Syrian refugees were housed in Turkish camps along the border as of Wednesday. More than 1,800 Syrians arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday alone, it said.

Yesterday's talks marked the start of detailed "operational planning" announced by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, at a meeting in Istanbul on August 11. At that meeting, Mrs Clinton said a no-fly zone in Syria was one of the options that would be evaluated during the talks.

According to Mr Davutoglu and Mrs Clinton, the purpose of the planning process is to speed up the fall of the government of Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president, and to prepare for a transitional period after the fall of the regime.

With the refugee crisis worsening, Turkey has signalled that it will ask for the creation of a United Nations safe zone for refugees inside Syria once the number passes 100,000. Ankara is also concerned about the growing strength of Kurdish rebels in northern Syria. Turkish officials say they hold the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party responsible for a bomb blast that killed nine people in the city of Gaziantep, just north of the border with Syria, late on Monday.

Bulent Arinc, the government spokesman in Ankara, told a television interviewer that police were investigating possible links of the bombers with Syria.

tseibert@thenational.ae