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Turkey to 'start training' Syria's moderate rebels by March

AFP/BARAA AL-HALABI. Fighters from the Nureddine al-Zinki unit, a moderate Syrian opposition faction made up of former Syrian Free Army fighters and affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkey may begin training and equipping moderate Syrian opposition fighters before March, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.

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A key part of US President Barack Obama’s strategy in Syria is to support moderate Syrian forces to battle jihadists from the Islamic State group. The State Department announced in October that Turkey had agreed to support the training programme.

Turkish and US forces will train 2,000 moderate Syrian rebel fighters at a base in the central Turkish city of Kirsehir as part of the campaign against Islamic State insurgents, a Turkish foreign ministry official said in late November.

The official said the Syrian rebel fighters would be among a total of 5,000 being trained in several countries as part of the US-led campaign.

Damascus and its allies deride all Syrian rebel groups as "terrorists" and have accused Turkey and the Gulf Arab states Qatar and Saudi Arabia of helping to spawn the jihadist Islamic State group through their support.

But speaking to reporters at the Turkish embassy in Tehran this week, Cavusoglu denied that Ankara had turned a blind eye to the passage of foreign jihadists into Syria and Iraq.

"More than 7,000 people have been barred from leaving Turkey and slightly more have been deported," the Turkish minister said.

He also denied that Turkey had allowed black market oil to be smuggled from areas controlled by the Islamic State group, providing the jihadists with one of their main sources of revenue.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

 

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