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Syrian opposition fighters to get US-Turkish air support Open in fullscreen

Bassem Dabbagh

Syrian opposition fighters to get US-Turkish air support

Factions of the Syrian opposition have made advances in recent months (Anadolu)

Date of publication: 26 May, 2015

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Turkish foreign minister tells reporters that a deal has been struck with the US to provide air support to approved Syrian opposition fighters.

The United States and Turkey have agreed “in principle” to give air support to some of Syria's mainstream opposition fighters currently being trained in Turkey, Ankara's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Monday.

In a press statement delivered on the sidelines of a meeting in the South Korean capital Seoul, Cavusoglu stressed that the Syrian forces training in a military barracks near the Turkish city of Kirsehir, will receive support when they re-enter Syria to fight against radical groups, including the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS).

“It is necessary for these moderate forces to receive air cover in order to guarantee effective operations against radicals,” Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu refused to give any details when asked if the air support would include armed American drones flown from Incirlik Air Base in the southern Turkish city of Adana.

“There is a principle agreement on providing air support. How it is going to be provided is the responsibility of the army,” he said.

Cavusoglu added that what Turkey awaits from the moderate Syrian opposition's training programme is a political solution to the four-year conflict in Turkey's southern neighbour, pointing out that “IS and the [Syrian] regime's attacks on the Syrian people continue, so it is necessary to restore the military balance on the ground through the US-Turkish training programme for the moderate opposition fighters”.

The establishment of a no-fly zone and a buffer zone in Syria is part of the solution in the long term, he also said.

The US has not commented on Cavusoglu's comments.

The Turkish-American training programme for the moderate Syrian opposition aims to train and equip 15,000 fighters to combat extremists.

A member of the Syrian National Council gave more details about the Turkish-American deal on Syria, telling al-Araby al-Jadeed that Washington had not provided the Syrian opposition with anti-aircraft missiles under the understanding that Turkey would provide air support for the armed opposition against IS and the Syrian regime.

According to the source, who did not wish to be named, the head of the SNC, Khaled Khoja, was told by US officials that Washington was considering lifting the ban on supplying the Syrian opposition with anti-aircraft missiles and that it is also examining the possibility of providing it with shoulder-fired thermal rockets to shoot down regime aircraft.

However, the US reversed its decision at the last minute, and opted to coordinate with Turkey in order to provide air support for the opposition factions trained in Turkey.

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