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Erdogan: Turkey, U.S. Ready to Work Together to Recapture Raqqa | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. President Barack Obama (center R) tracks down Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan (center L, back to camera) for a brief private conversation after they gave remarks to reporters following their bilateral meeting alongside the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, Sunday. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Washington and Ankara are ready to work together to push ISIS jihadists out of their self-declared Syrian capital of Raqqa, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, revealing that his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama floated the idea during their recent meeting in China.

Erdogan said he had agreed with Obama on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China to do “what is necessary” to drive ISIS out of Raqqa.

“Raqqa is the most important center of Daesh,” Erdogan told Turkish journalists onboard his plane as he returned from China, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

“Obama wants to do something together especially on the issue of Raqqa,” he said in comments published by the Hurriyet daily. “I said there would be no problem from our perspective.”

“I said ‘our soldiers should come together and discuss, then what is necessary will be done’,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Without giving further details, he said: “What can be done will become clear after the discussions.”

ISIS declared Raqqa, which lies on the Euphrates River, its capital in 2014.

Ousting the terrorist group from the city would be a turning point in the conflict.

Erdogan’s comments came two weeks after Turkey, which is battling a Kurdish insurgency at home, launched an incursion into northern Syria with the stated aims of clearing ISIS from its border and preventing the Kurdish YPG militia expanding into new territory.

Ankara-backed rebels seized Jarablus from ISIS militants within hours on the first day of the operation and Turkey says jihadists have now been removed from the entire border area.

Ankara now wants international support for an operation to take control of a rectangle of territory stretching into Syria, creating a buffer between two Kurdish-held cantons to the east and west and against ISIS to the south.

Turkey has been alarmed by U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia which Ankara sees as a “terrorist” group linked to its own Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging a bloody campaign against the Turkish state.

“At this stage we have to show our presence in the region. We do not have the chance to take a backward step. If we take a backward step terror groups like Daesh, PKK, PYD and YPG will settle there,” said Erdogan.