SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) A day after American officials said Turkey had agreed to allow its air bases to be used for operations against the Islamic State, which they described as a deal that represented a breakthrough in tense negotiations, Turkish officials said on Monday that there was no deal yet, and that talks were still underway.
The Turkish comments represented another miscommunication between the United States and its longtime ally Turkey, as President Obama pushes to strengthen an international coalition against the militants that control a large area of both Syria and Iraq, by securing a greater role for Turkey.
The Turks have insisted that any broad support to the coalition is dependent on the mission going beyond the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, to also target the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, which Turkey has long opposed and blames for creating the conditions that led to the rise of the extremists within Syria and Iraq.
“We approach this issue from a comprehensive perspective, including safe havens and a no-fly zone to be established in the region,” said an official in the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The official, who said that no deal over the use of air bases had been completed, added, “Talks, therefore, continue as we look into things we can do together while covering all these aspects.”
A senior Defense Department official insisted on Monday that Turkey had agreed in principle to the use of its bases. The official also sought to tamp down reports of a rupture between the two allies.
“They have agreed to some base usage, but the details of how it will be executed are still being worked out,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of pending negotiations.
As part of an effort against Mr. Assad’s government, the Turks have insisted on a no-fly zone in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey, that would create a safe haven in which to arm and train moderate rebels fighting against Mr. Assad and where an opposition government could take root. The United States has largely opposed this — although some within the government, especially at the State Department, believe the idea should be given serious consideration — because it would broaden Mr. Obama’s stated objective of focusing only on the destruction of the Islamic State.
The apparent disagreement between officials of both countries seemed to reflect unresolved differences, still to be negotiated, on the exact uses of Turkish air bases, whether for logistics or airstrikes. Turkey, a NATO member, already allows the use of its base at Incirlik, in southern Turkey, to fly surveillance drones. Turkey has agreed to a host of other measures in the fight against the Islamic State, including sharing intelligence, tightening border controls to halt the flow of foreign fighters and taking part in an American-led program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting against Mr. Assad’s government.
Speaking in New York where he was meeting with United Nations officials, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told the semiofficial Anadolu Agency, “right now, we agree with the U.S. on some issues related to the train-and-equip project.”
He added, “There is no decision made on Incirlik or on any other matter.”
The latest tensions in the relationship between the United States and Turkey came after two days of talks last week in Ankara, the Turkish capital, between retired Gen. John R. Allen, Mr. Obama’s envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, and Turkish officials.
A team of American military officials is expected to arrive in Ankara this week for further talks, not just about the use of the air bases but also about Turkey’s role in training the moderate Syrian rebels, a program in which Turkey has agreed to participate.
“There needs to be a new strategy in Syria, where a new power consisting only of Syrians emerges to protect the Syrian people from IS and the regime,” Mr. Davutoglu said in an interview over the weekend with Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper.
“The solution lies in the creation of a third force in addition to the Syrian regime and IS that represents the Syrian people and is made up of Syrians from all factions and not foreign fighters,” Mr. Davutoglu said.