“CIA chief Mike Pompeo visits Turkey to discuss policy on Syria and Isis” the Guardian Newspaper reported on Thursday.
CIA director Mike Pompeo arrived in Turkey on Thursday to discuss the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq with Turkish authorities.
The visit by the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, is being cast in Turkey as a reset of bilateral relations that grew fraught during the last three years of the Obama administration, particularly over Washington’s choice of a proxy to fight Isis: Kurdish groups linked to the PKK militants who have fought a four-decade insurgency against Turkey.
Pompeo’s hastily scheduled trip foreshadows greater US support for Turkish efforts to defeat the terror group, using Arab proxies.
Officials said the talks aim to coordinate efforts on the ground, where Turkish-backed Arabs are edging towards the town of al-Bab, while US-backed Kurds have neared the Isis stronghold of Raqqa, further to the east.
TURKEY CLAIMED ITS FORCES HAD MADE FURTHER ADVANCES TOWARDS AL BAB
Ahead of the visit, Turkey claimed its forces had made further advances towards al-Bab, where the terror atrocities in Paris, Brussels and Nice were planned. Turkish forces have been bogged down for months outside the town, 25 miles north-east of Aleppo, following fierce Isis counterattacks, which signaled the group’s resolve to defend the most strategic areas of its fast-shrinking territory.
The talks could also consider a US contribution to a safe zone for refugees, Turkish officials claim. Establishing a haven for people fleeing the fighting had been one of Ankara’s core demands since 2013, and a de facto zone has taken shape since August, when Turkish forces entered Syria – first to stop Kurdish forces from taking a presence along the entire border, and also to combat Isis.
TURKEY HAS SO FAR NOT ALLOWED MANY OF THE LARGE NUMBERS OF REFUGEE
However, Turkey has so far not allowed many of the large numbers of refugees who fled the fall of Aleppo in December into the zone it controls to the north of al-Bab and east to the Euphrates river. Instead, up to 80,000 people have been herded towards Idlib province, which has been frequently bombed by Russian jets since the start of the year. Up to 15 people who had fled Aleppo were killed by airstrikes in Idlib city on Wednesday, rescuers and aid organisations said.
The US president, earlier this month, suggested he would unilaterally establish a safe zone in Syria – a move which was tied to his executive order suspending the US Syrian refugee programme – and which appears inconceivable given Russia’s control of the skies over north-western Syria.