U.S., Turkey to sign Syrian opposition train-and-equip deal in days: official
(Reuters) – The United States and Turkey could sign an agreement to train and equip fighters in the moderate Syrian opposition within days, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
The U.S. military has said it is planning to send more than 400 troops, including special forces, to train Syrian moderates outside the country as part of the fight against Islamic State militants.
Turkey also hopes the move will bolster the weakened and divided Syrian opposition in their struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Negotiations have been concluded and an agreement text will be signed with the U.S. regarding the training of the Free Syrian Army in the coming period,” foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said.
“We will share all the technical details…when the text is signed, but it is anticipated that this will happen in the coming days,” he told reporters in Ankara.
The Free Syrian Army is seen by Turkey as a key actor in Syria’s kaleidoscopic conflict, but the group has been riven by divisions and suffered setbacks at the hands of government forces and other rebel factions.
U.S. officials have said they plan to train about 5,000 Syrian fighters a year for three years under the plan. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Turkey, have publicly offered to host training sites.
A deal between Ankara and Washington would be a positive development between the two long-standing allies, despite strains over Middle Eastern policy. Turkey wants Assad’s departure to be the focus in Syria, while Washington’s priority remains battling the Islamic State insurgents.