Turkey-US Differences Persist After Biden Visit

Turkey-US Differences Persist  After Biden VisitTurkey-US Differences Persist  After Biden Visit

Turkey and the United States smoothed over some differences in the fight against the IS during a weekend visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, but the talks heralded little in the way of deeper military cooperation between the NATO allies.

Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the US-led coalition against the militant group, refusing to take a frontline military role despite its 1,200 km border with Iraq and Syria.

 Biden ended two days of meetings in Istanbul with no guarantee that Turkey would step up its military cooperation by, for example, allowing the use of Turkish air space or a US base in its southern town of Incirlik for coalition air strikes, Reuters reported.

Turkish leaders, in turn, received no signal that their demands for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power or that Washington establish a no-fly zone in Syria would be met.

Turkish and US forces will train 2,000 “moderate Syrian rebels” at a base in the central city of Kirsehir as part of the plan, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.

  Difference Over Syria

“In Iraq, Ankara and Washington’s viewpoints are very much closely aligned. The problem remains Syria, where strategically they want the same thing – a new order without Assad – but technically, divergences remain,” said Sinan Ulgen, head of the Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul.

Those divergences center around the urgency to remove Assad.

Turkey argues there can be no peace while he remains in power.

Washington argues that while Assad has lost legitimacy and must ultimately leave power, fighting the IS is the priority.

Turkey’s proposal for a buffer zone inside Syria, a safe haven for refugees which would need to be protected by a no-fly zone, is unlikely to gain much traction, as it would put the coalition in direct confrontation with Assad.

Turkish and US cooperation is likely instead to focus on strengthening Syria’s “moderate opposition”, with the first group of fighters expected to start training in Kirsehir in months.

US officials said there would need to be close vetting criteria to ensure that those receiving training were genuine moderates who would not end up joining radical groups.

There are also differences over the objectives of the training, with Turkey insisting the rebels should fight Assad as well as the insurgents, while Washington wants the focus to remain squarely on the IS.