Turkey and the United States signed an accord Thursday to jointly train and equip thousands of Syrians over the next three years in a rare sign of cooperation between the NATO allies.
But the document, which wasn’t made public, apparently doesn’t spell out whom the Syrians will be trained to fight. The two countries couldn’t agree whether the rebels will be trained to fight the Islamic State, the American priority, or the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Turkey’s preference, Turkish officials said.
Asked about the impasse by reporters, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had a diplomatic response: “Of course, the Islamic State is the priority, along with the regime.”
“It is only a first step,” Feridun Sinirlioglu, the undersecretary at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said at the signing ceremony.
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“There are so many things for us to do,” Sinirlioglu said. “We are experiencing many chaotic situations in our neighborhood and in other parts of the world. When we work together, we believe that we can make a difference.”
U.S. Ambassador John Bass echoed Sinirlioglu’s words that the accord was just a beginning and a great deal remained to be done. The Turkish Foreign Ministry later announced that Sinirlioglu would travel to the United States for further discussions.
Cavusoglu said details of the agreement would be made public later.
U.S. trainers will use a Turkish base in central Anatolia to train 2,000 Syrian rebels a year for the next three years, and a similar number will be trained in bases provided by Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Asked who’ll decide which Syrians are to be trained, another point of contention, Cavusoglu responded that “our experts will decide,” without saying who they are or by what process.