Wars and Military Conflicts

Turkey asking coalition partners for joint ground operation in Syria, official says

Kalyeena Makortoff with Reuters
Turkey pushes for joint ground operation in Syria

Turkey is asking its coalition partners, including the U.S., to take part in a joint ground operation in Syria to try to end the five-year-old civil war, a Turkish official said on Tuesday.

The official said it was now impossible to stop the war without such an operation, but that Ankara would not launch such an offensive on its own.

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"Turkey is not going to have a unilateral ground operation. We are asking coalition partners that there should be a ground operation. We are discussing this with allies," the official told reporters at a briefing in Istanbul.

"We want a ground operation. If there is a consensus, Turkey will take part. Without a ground operation, it is impossible to stop this war."

Coalition forces that have so far taken part in Syrian air strikes include Australia, Canada, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and U.S.

Too complex for ground troops?

However, The complex interests of international players in Syria may be the greatest challenge to any unified ground operation by a coalition, Anthony Skinner, a director at Verisk Maplecroft told CNBC.

While there is some sort of international consensus about targeting the terrorist organization known as Islamic State (IS), Skinner says there's no agreement on what ground forces would aim to achieve, and how they would engage with other groups, like those linked to Al-Qaeda or militias aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey remains concerned about Syria's Kurdish forces, given its domestic conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), while Moscow, for example, is trying to to exacerbate divisions within NATO, and weaken Turkey's hand in Syria, while strengthening its own, he said.

This also comes as international players look to secure a ceasefire timeline while the United National has ramped up calls for "unhindered" aid delivery to civilians.

"You have to have the fundamentals in place before you consider ground troops. You need a clear mandate and a clear exit strategy. If you don't have one, you might even strengthen Daesh (IS)," Skinner explained.

"The multiplicity of agendas and aims that make ground troops unrealistic."

In a seemingly contradictory parliamentary speech on Tuesday, Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu stressed preventative measures would be taken to avoid getting involved in the Syrian war.

Turkish forces have been shelling Syria for four straight days, with the state military confirming that it had returned fire "in kind" with forces across the border, which reportedly targeted members of a Kurdish militia.

It's a move that the Syrian regime condemned in a letter to the U.N. Security Council published by the Syrian Arab News Agency earlier this week, which also claimed armed Turkish forces had already entered Syrian territory.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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