Turkey, Russia, US military chiefs hold talks in Turkey

AFP , Tuesday 7 Mar 2017

Turkey, Russia, US talks
Turkish Millitary Press Service shows Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Hulusi Akar (C), US Chariman of the Joint Staff General Joseph Dunford (L) and Russian Chief of General Staff General Valery Gerasimov (R) during a meeting in Antalya March 7, 2017 (Photo: AFP)

Turkish, Russian and US military chiefs held talks on Tuesday in the southern Turkish city of Antalya to discuss regional issues including Iraq and Syria, the Turkish army said.

"Common issues relating to regional security, in particular Syria and Iraq, are being discussed at the meeting," the army said in a statement, without elaborating further.

The meeting attended by Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and Russian Chief of General Staff General Valery Gerasimov appears to be the first of its kind.

In the past, Antalya hosted several NATO meetings, as well as the G20 summit in 2015.

Moscow also confirmed the meeting, with the defence ministry saying in a statement to Russian news agencies: "A joint discussion on security issues in Syria and Iraq is planned at the event."

The talks come a day after Turkey stepped back from threats to strike Syrian Kurdish militia forces deployed in former Islamic State group (IS) bastion of Manbij in Syria, unless it was in cooperation with Russia and the United States.

"It makes no sense to launch an operation in Manbij without the cooperation of Russia and the United States," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised interview.

His announcement stood in stark contrast to previous threats from Ankara that it would hit Syrian Kurdish militia -- considered "terrorists" by Turkey -- unless they withdrew from Manbij.

Turkey had often said that the next target of its cross-border Syria campaign would be the flashpoint town of Manbij, which is now controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a group dominated by Kurdish fighters.

Ankara has launched an ambitious military campaign inside Syria since late August, backing Syrian opposition fighters and recaptured several towns near its border from IS including Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Dabiq and Al-Bab.

The Turkish campaign is also aimed at stopping the advance of Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara accuses of being the Syrian branch of an outlawed Kurdish militant group.

Turkey has also said it wanted to work with its allies to capture IS bastion of Raqa, but has ruled out any operation alongside the Kurdish militia.

A member of the US-led coalition fighting against IS, Turkey is also cooperating with Russia in Syria.

The Antalya meeting comes as Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition are making progress in a vast operation aimed retaking the IS-stronghold of Mosul in Iraq.

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