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Turkey says ready to join US in Syria’s Raqqah operation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference after the closing of the G20 Summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on September 5, 2016. ©Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his country’s readiness to join forces with the US in an operation allegedly aimed at retaking the Syrian city of Raqqah, the self-declared capital of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

In remarks carried by Wednesday's edition of Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, Erdogan said that his American counterpart, Barack Obama, had floated the idea of joint action to capture the northern Syrian city during talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China.

"Obama wants to do something together especially on the issue of Raqqah," he said, adding, "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.'”

US President Barack Obama (R) and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (1-L), speak after their bilateral meeting alongside the G20 Summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, September 4, 2016. ©Reuters

Additionally, the Turkish president noted that a specific Turkish role would depend on further talks.

Daesh declared Raqqah, which lies on the Euphrates River, the capital of the terror group’s so-called caliphate in 2014.

Liberating Raqqah from the grip of Daesh would be a turning point in the conflict in Syria.

The development comes as Turkey is engaged in an incursion into Syria.

Turkish soldiers stand in an army tank driving back to Turkey from the Syrian town of Jarablus on September 2, 2016. ©AFP

On August 24, Turkish special forces, tanks and jets backed by planes from the US-led coalition launched their first coordinated offensive in Syria. Damascus denounced the intervention as a breach of its sovereignty.

Erdogan said the operation, dubbed "Euphrates Shield," was aimed at “terror groups” such as Daesh and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a US-backed Kurdish group based in Syria.

The PYD is the political wing of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara says is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

Elsewhere in his Wednesday comments, Erdogan said, "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."

Turkey says it wants to establish a safe zone in the 98-kilometer (61-mile) area stretching from the town of Jarablus to the city of A'zaz in Syria.

The Turkish army sent 15 more tanks to a district near the Turkish-Syrian border, bringing the total number of tanks and armored vehicles in that area to 90, Turkey's Dogan news agency reported on Wednesday.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Over the past few months, the Takfiri militants active in the Arab country have suffered major setbacks as the Syrian army has managed to liberate several areas.

Turkey is said to be among the main supporters of the militant groups active in Syria, with reports saying that Ankara actively trains and arms the Takfiri elements there and facilitates their safe passage into the violence-wracked state. 

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