Turkish diplomatic sources confirmed that meetings and talks with US officials regarding the operation to liberate Raqqa, ISIS’ stronghold in northern Syria, are still ongoing, as opposed to the Syrian Democratic Forces’ announcement that Turkey will not participate in the operation.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the talks are focusing on technical details and coordination between Turkish forces, international coalition forces and soldiers who will take part in the operation to liberate Raqqa. They also stressed that Ankara has not changed its position concerning Kurdish forces not participating in the operation.
The information provided by the Turkish sources confirms the US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter’s announcement that the US continues to hold meetings with Turkish officials to discuss the role that Ankara can play in the operation to liberate Raqqa from the terrorist organisation ISIS. Carter said on Wednesday night that “We intend soon to move there with forces that are capable of it, to surround Raqqa… and in the end to release her. We continue to negotiate with Turkey on this issue for a possible future role in this country.”
Turkey has deployed many of its troops to Kilis on the border with Syria during the past two days, and Turkey’s Defence Minister Fikri Isik inspected Turkish military units on the Turkish-Syrian border in the Hatay Province, southern Turkey on Wednesday. This inspection is considered an indication that the operation to liberate Raqqa will be launched shortly.
Whilst there has been much talk and debate about Turkish-American coordination regarding the operation to liberate Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish coalition backed by Washington, yesterday announced that it will lead the operation to liberate Raqqa and that Turkey will not participate in it.
A spokesman for the SDF Talal Selo said in a press conference that took place in Al-Hasakah, north east Syria, “We will see a campaign led by the SDF to liberate the city of Raqqa that is occupied by the terrorist organisation ISIS, but the time for this has not yet been specified”.