Turkish FM: IS Must Be Pushed Back in Northern Syria

ANKARA (Reuters) -
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gestures during a news briefing in Tbilisi, Georgia, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)

Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Islamic State terrorists must immediately be pushed back from an area in Syria near the Turkish border and work to achieve this was underway.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, the minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, voiced frustration over Islamic State’s persistent grip in Syria and Iraq despite what he said was a near two-year long effort by the U.S.-led coalition involving 65 countries.

“Daesh should be cleared from the region. This is the most permanent solution,” Cavusoglu said, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

“It should be removed from the Manbij region and cleared off towards the south,” he said, referring to a northern Syrian town that has been used as a logistical hub by the group.

The United States and Turkey have for months been discussing a military plan to drive Islamic State from the border area, but there has been little concrete sign of progress.

The Sunni hardline group has increasingly targeted Turkey, stepping up rocket attacks on the border town of Kilis, where 19 people including children have been killed this year.

Cavusoglu repeated that U.S. rocket launcher systems were expected to be deployed in Turkey in May, and called for stronger air support for moderate rebels fighting the group.

Cavusoglu said late in April that as part of a deal with Washington, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) would be deployed near Turkey’s borders. A senior U.S. military official confirmed the matter was under discussion.

On Wednesday, two rockets from Islamic State-held Syrian territory struck Kilis, landing in an empty field near the town center. No casualties were reported.