As US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel prepares to visit Turkey and the US government tries to build a “coalition of the willing” to take on Islamic militants in Syria, the Turkish government ponders how to cooperate without further antagonizing the jihadists.
Hagel’s stop in Turkey will come near the end of a six-day international trip which begins Wednesday.
“We must walk on eggshells. We are seeking a delicate balancing act between helping our western allies and not causing harm to our hostages,” a senior Turkish diplomat told Defense News on Sunday.
Islamic State, which has taken over large swathes of Syria and Iraq in recent months, also captured Turkey’s consulate in Mosul earlier this year and took 49 diplomats and their families — including the consul general — hostage. IS has held them since.
“We cannot take steps that might endanger the lives of our hostages,” the Turkish diplomat said. “But that does not mean we are unwilling to cooperate. We will try to devise a plan that should serve both goals,” he said.
“Turkey is a key NATO ally. And given its border with Syria and Iraq, they share our deep concerns with … the regional threat posed by IS,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters in Washington Friday.
The U.S. military has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since Aug. 8, and is considering expanding the air campaign into neighboring Syria.
The White House has asked the Pentagon to present military options along these lines.