War on Isis: Turkey to launch 'comprehensive battle' against militants, says foreign minister

The US, Turkey and Russia are discussing the Syria crisis at an international summit in Malaysia - but remain at odds on how to deal with Isis

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The Independent Online

Turkey’s foreign minister says its air bases have begun hosting US aircraft and drones and that soon it will launch a “comprehensive battle” against Isis militants.

Speaking at the start of a meeting with the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, Mevlut Cavusoglu said there had been movement on the ground since the two nations agreed to an anti-Isis alliance late last month.

The ministers have travelled to Kuala Lumpur for a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations, where Kerry is also due to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

And speaking to the Turkish state broadcaster TRT, Cavusoglu said work was well under way in collaboration with the US training Syria’s “moderate opposition”.

“As part of our agreement we have made progress regarding the opening up of our bases, particularly Incirlik,” he said.

“We're seeing that manned and unmanned American planes are arriving and soon we will launch a comprehensive battle against Islamic State all together.”

He added that the direct operation against Isis would “then make the ground safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh (another name for Isis) on the ground.”

Later on Wednesday, Kerry and Russia’s Lavrov were due to meet for the second time in three days to “discuss a range of issues of mutual concern” including the crisis in Syria, according to a senior US State Department official.

The pair previously held a trilateral meeting which included the Saudi foreign minister Abel al-Jubeir in Qatar on Monday, where the trio “acknowledged the need for a political solution to the conflict and the important role to be played by opposition groups in reaching that solution”.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the formation of a "wide anti-terrorist front" had been one of the main themes of the Kerry-Lavrov-Jubeir talks.

But there remains a huge dividing factor between the US and Saudi Arabia on one side and Russia and Iran on the other – what to do about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The American stance, shared by the majority of the West and its Gulf Arab allies, is that Assad must leave office before a resolution in Syria can be reached.

Iran and Russia, meanwhile, have stood by Assad throughout the country’s four-year civil war, and seem unlikely to abandon him now.