Ankara, Moscow – Ankara has been granted Washington’s green light to launch a military operation to liberate the city of Raqqa – ISIS’ main stronghold in Syria – after the completion of the Mosul operation.
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook’s recent comments have confirmed statements by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, who stressed on Monday the “strategic and military” need to conduct such an offensive “after the Mosul operation and Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation are completed”.
Cook told reporters that it was important to continue to put pressure on ISIS in Raqqa.
“We continue to talk on a regular basis with the Turkish leadership about the best approach to addressing the fight for Raqqa,” Cook said during a briefing in Washington on Monday.
“But we have to keep the pressure on and we have to move forward and challenge ISIS in its so-called capital of its caliphate,” he added.
Meanwhile, Turkish military sources said that Ankara was still opposed to the participation of Kurdish forces in the Raqqa operation, proposing instead the support of thousands of Syrian Arab fighters, who were trained by Turkey for this specific purpose.
In this context, the head of the Turkish armed forces, General Hulusi Akar, was in Russia on Tuesday to discuss military cooperation and regional developments with his Russian counterpart, Valery Gerasimov, the Turkish military said in a statement.
Turkish military sources said that talks between Akar and Gerasimov focused on the situation in the Middle East, in particular the Syrian crisis, as well as the means to fight terrorism and promote military cooperation.
Following a visit to Moscow by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August, Turkey and Russia have formed a tripartite cooperation mechanism, which comprises the two countries’ armies, intelligence units and foreign ministries, to promote cooperation and exchange military information.