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Turkey FM: Ankara to station US rocket system on Syria border

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu ©AP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Ankara will deploy a US rocket launcher system on the border with Syria next month to allegedly combat the Takfiri Daesh terrorists.

In an interview with Turkey’s Haberturk newspaper published on Tuesday, Cavusoglu said the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) would be "deployed on the Turkish border in May as part of an agreement" with Washington.

The system would enable Turkey to "hit ISIS (Daesh) targets more effectively," Cavusoglu claimed.

HIMARS would allow Turkey to hit Daesh positions within a 90-kilometer (56-mile) range, while Turkish artillery has a limited range of only 40 kilometers (24 miles), the minister stated.

He said the deployment is meant to seal off an area around the city of Manbij in Aleppo Province, northern Syria.

Turkey is seeking to establish a safe zone in the 98-kilometer (60-mile) stretch between Manbij and the border to shelter Syrian refugees, the Turkish foreign minister said.

Cavusoglu made the remarks during a recent trip to the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Over the past few weeks, the southern Turkish border city of Kilis has come under frequent rocket attacks by Daesh militants, prompting the Turkish army to respond with howitzer fire.

A woman stands with her children outside a damaged house in Kilis, Turkey, on April 25, 2016, a day after rockets hit the border city. ©AFP

Turkey has frequently used such rocket attacks as a pretext to shell the Syrian territory or send troops into the Arab country.  

Many blame Ankara for supporting militant groups that have been fighting to topple the Syrian government since March 2011. The Turkish government also stands accused of being involved in illegal oil trade with Daesh, but it strongly rejects the allegations. 

In late May 2015, Turkish-language Cumhuriyet newspaper posted on its website footage purportedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, also known as the MIT, carrying weapons for militant groups in Syria.

Since late September 2014, the United States, along with some of its allies, has been conducting airstrikes against purported positions of Daesh inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or the United Nations. Turkey permits US warplanes to use its air base in the south for the airstrikes.

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