Yerevan, 19.October.2018,

Turkey may do more against Islamic State, but how much uncertain

Turkey appears to be inching toward a greater role in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State after the group freed 46 Turkish hostages, but it remains unclear how far it will go to combat the militants, Reuters reports. As the United States builds a military coalition including Gulf Arab states to fight the radical Sunni militant group, Turkey has been conspicuous by its absence, playing no public role in U.S.-led air strikes on Syria this week. While Ankara had previously ruled out military action against its neighbor, its tone changed after the air strikes, in which five Gulf Arab states joined the United States in attacking Islamic State targets in Syria. "We are seriously considering military cooperation with the United States to combat IS," a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Wednesday, referring to the group by its acronym. The shift was telegraphed on Tuesday by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who was quoted as saying hours after the U.S.-led strike, "We will give the necessary support to the operation. The support could be military or logistics." This appears to be the first time a Turkish official has publicly voiced a willingness to contribute militarily to the U.S.-led campaign. It follows the Islamic State's release on Saturday of 46 Turkish hostages, which removed the proximate cause for Turkey's reluctance to take part in military action. Before their release, U.S. officials often explained Turkey's reluctance by noting unique "sensitivities" Turkey faced. It also follows an expansion in the coalition behind the United States, including the addition of Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, all of which took part in Tuesday's air strikes. U.S. aircraft hit Islamic State targets for a second day on Wednesday. There are also signs the U.S.-led coalition may be growing, putting further pressure on Turkey, whose large size and long border with Syria make it one of the most strategically important countries in any U.S.-led campaign. "In a way they are being shamed into acting, because everybody is doing it and the Turks are sitting on the sidelines," said Henri Barkey, a former State Department official who now teaches at Lehigh University. "(When) the most important country, the country that is bordering IS, isn’t participating it looks awfully bad," he said, adding: "It is not clear to me how far he (Erdogan) is willing to go." In his speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, Erdogan made no explicit mention of the fight against IS.
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