Saadallah al-Jabiri square in Aleppo

Turkey Launches Syria Offensive As Biden Travels To Ankara

Turkish and U.S.-led coalition forces have launched a military offensive aimed at clearing Islamic State (IS) militants from a border area of northern Syria.

The operation began just before dawn on August 24, shortly before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

A senior U.S. official aboard Biden’s plane told reporters on August 24 that Washington was “in sync” with Turkey on plans.

Biden’s talks with Erdogan and Yildirim are expected to focus on deteriorating relations between Ankara and its NATO allies since a failed July 15 military coup in Turkey.

The United States and Europe have criticized a broad crackdown by Ankara against Erdogan’s political opponents since the coup.

Erdogan said Turkey’s request for Washington to extradite exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen — accused by Erdogan of orchestrating the attempted coup — would be a key issue in the talks.

Washington has said it would need evidence of the U.S.-based cleric’s involvement in the coup. Gulen has denied any involvement in the plot.

But Erdogan said on August 24 he would tell Biden that the United States has no excuses and must hand over Gulen.

Another issue expected to be discussed during Biden’s one-day visit to Ankara is the role in the fight against IS militants that Syrian Kurdish fighters should have.

Washington supports Syrian Kurdish fighters from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and sees them as vital to the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy of combating IS militants.

But Ankara accuses the PYD of being aligned with Turkish Kurdish rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Full story:

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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