Moderate Syrian opposition forces being trained and equipped jointly by the US and Turkey will be provided air protection once in Syria, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper.
He said, “the US and Turkey have agreed in principle to provide the trained and equipped moderate forces with air protection in Syria.”
When asked if there have been any developments on a no-fly zone in Syria, the minister responded, “No-fly and secure zones are a part of the extensive resolution for Syria. However, to provide security for the personnel that were trained and equipped, these are partial solutions.”
Speaking on sidelines of the fifth MIKTA Foreign Ministers Meeting in Seoul, Cavusoglu said the forces trained in Turkey cannot be abandoned to their fate once the programme is over and there is a “comprehensive plan put forward by Turkey that included setting up no-fly zones and safe zones in Syria” despite air protection not being included in the initial programme with the US.
However, Cavusoglu did not provide any technical details in the Daily Sabah interview such as if the US air base in Turkey’s Incirlik would be used for air support.
Turkey and the US signed an agreement to train moderate opposition fighters against the Assad Regime in Syria on Feb. 17.
The Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, General John Allen, met with Turkey’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu in mid-May and discussed issues related to ISIS and defending Syrian people against the group as well as providing security for the land under the control of moderate Syrian forces.
In the interview, Cavusoglu also pointed out that the train and equip programme would not be useful without air protection since the Syrian opposition forces are facing both ISIS and the Assad regime.
According to Cavusoglu, Syrian opposition forces have already began taking part in the programme in Turkey’s central province of Kirsehir, which aims to provide training for up to 2,000 fighters by the end of this year.
Previously, the minister had said that similar programmes training the Syrian opposition would be carried out in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar.