Middle East

Top US envoy in Turkey after Syria intervention speculation

In this March 26, 2012 file photo, Marine Gen. John Allen speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon. President Barack Obama says he has accepted Allen's request to retire from military. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)John Allen

ANKARA: The U.S. special envoy for the coalition against ISIS was in Ankara Tuesday to meet Turkish officials, after speculation Turkey could launch a military intervention inside Syria, sources told AFP.

"General John Allen will hold talks in Ankara today," a Turkish official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that the talks were "naturally" expected to focus on the fight against ISIS.

Accompanied by U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth and military officials, Allen is expected to meet with Feridun Sinirlioglu, the Turkish undersecretary of the foreign ministry as well as military chiefs, the source said.

Turkey has reinforced its military presence on the volatile border over the past week, deploying tanks and anti-aircraft missiles there as well as additional troops.

The moves come as fighting between Islamist-led groups and Syrian regime forces in the northern city of Aleppo has intensified.

The Turkish build-up has led to speculation that the government is planning to intervene in Syria to push the jihadis back from the border and halt the advance of Kurdish forces who have made gains against the extremists in the area.

Reports last week said the Turkish military could create a buffer zone dozens of kilometers inside Syrian territory to ensure Turkish security and house some of the 1.8 million Syrian refugees on its territory.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Friday ruled out any prospect of an immediate intervention in Syria, but said Turkey would respond if its security was threatened.

Ankara is wary of the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Syria, fearing the growing power of Kurdish forces there will embolden Turkey's own Kurdish minority.

Turkey - NATO's only majority Muslim member - has stayed out of the U.S.-led coalition assisting Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS, causing irritation in Washington.

Analysts have warned that a Turkish intervention inside Syria could carry considerable risks and also further strain its relations with the West.

 

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