Turkey, Russia, US army chiefs discuss anti-ISIL steps

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militia alliance including the Kurdish YPG, is the main USA partner in the war against Islamic State in Syria.

Gen. Dunford, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was invited to attend the summit by the Turkish military, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally and key USA counterterrorism partner.

A spokeswoman for Mercy Corps, Christine Bragale, said she could not speculate on the reason for the Turkish government's decision, but stressed: "We have every confidence in the impartiality and integrity of our operation".

Turkey has said it wants to work with its allies to capture the IS de facto capital of Raqa, but has ruled out any operation alongside the Kurdish militia.

In January, the SDF was provided by the USA with armored vehicles for the first time ahead of the planned Raqqa offensive.

It said they "underlined the importance of taking additional steps to prevent incidents during operations".

Turkey has admitted more than 3 million refugees fleeing violence in Syria, and towns and cities along its southern border have been a hub for sending humanitarian supplies into the war-torn country.

On the other major flank of the assault on IS, Iraqi forces aim to dislodge the militant group from west Mosul within a month.

On Monday, SDF fighters blocked the main road linking Raqqa with the eastern IS-held city of Deir el-Zour.

Pressed by McCain on who is going "sort all this out", Votel said it has to be both a military and political effort.

Cavusoglu said the United States appeared confused in its planning for an attack on the Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

Asked whether this is a new mission for USA troops in Syria, Davis said, "It is, absolutely".

"We have had what I would describe as a pretty relentless air campaign to destroy enemy capabilities and to kill enemy fighters in that area already".

The U.S. built several military bases in the two Kurdish cantons on the eastern part of the Euphrates during the civil war. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, terrorists that are an extension of Turkish Kurdish separatists.

Washington has stated its opposition to the Kurdish-led autonomous zones in northern Syria, even as it backs the YPG militarily. The goal of the chairman's meeting here is to ensure that deconfliction process extends to the ground as well, officials said.

"The Turkish side is an occupation force and it can not be allowed to occupy more Syrian land", Talal Silo, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, told Reuters.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, March 6 said the US troops are on the western outskirts of Manbij to "reassure and deter", and are making themselves visible by flying American flags.

"The Turkish military is present in Syria and carries out military operations there, and the Russian military continues activities to support the Syrian armed forces - this requires very close interaction and coordination", the Kremlin spokesman said.

  • Rogelio Becker