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Turkey 'ready to invade' IS capital Raqqa with US

Erdogan insisted that friction with Kurdish rebels will not be a hindrance [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 September, 2016

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Turkish troops are ready to join US forces in taking the Islamic State's Syrian capital of Raqqa, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday.
Turkish troops are ready to join US forces in further penetrating Islamic State group territory and eventually taking the militants' Syrian capital of Raqqa, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China, Erdogan said that the collaboration was first mooted by outgoing US President Barack Obama.

"Obama wants to do some things together concerning Raqqa in particular," the Turkish leader said according to the Hurriyet daily.

"We stated that would not be a problem from our perspective. We said, 'Let our soldiers come together, whatever is necessary will be done,'" he continued.

The White House have yet to confirm Erdogan's comments, however a US-Turkey collaboration in Syria may stumble when it comes to the issue of Kurdish fighters, who are considered allies by Washington and terrorists by Ankara.

Erdogan touched upon this on Tuesday, saying that "we [Turkey] do not have the chance to take a backward step. If we take a backward step terror groups like Daesh [IS], PKK, PYD and YPG will settle there," referring to the IS group and the main Kurdish rebel groups in Syria.

Washington, meanwhile, has conducted joint operations with Kurdish YPG fighters, most recently in driving IS out of the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

According to Reuters, the Pentagon expects the Kurds to be on board with the operation to take Raqqa.

Erdogan, however, has simultaneously downplayed the friction between Turkey and Kurdish rebel groups, saying that he does not consider this to be an operational hindrance.

"We worked very comfortably in al-Rai. We did so in Jarablus, and are still doing so," the Turkish leader said, referring to Turkey's ousting of the IS group from the Turkey-Syria border in operation Euphrates Shield.

He also added that a joint plan of action had been informally 
planned with the US at the last G20 summit in 2015, allegedly involving an incursion zone in Syria of 40-95 kilometres.

Erdogan's words come two weeks after Turkish forces launched a large-scale offensive to clear the Turkey-Syria border region of IS fighters.

Following the reputed success of the operation, Turkish authorities on Wednesday said that around 250 Syrian refugees had begun returning to their homes in Jarablus.

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