US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met here Monday with Turkish dignitaries to discuss possible cooperation against the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an army of radical Islamists that took large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in July and August.
Hagel met with Turkey’s top soldier, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel, at the military headquarters, before having further meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz.
Turkish officials said Hagel’s visit was a follow-up to Erdogan’s meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Wales last week during which nine NATO countries, including Turkey, as well as Australia, discussed the formation of a core group to “destroy ISIL.”
They said Turkey appears to have indicated that it would list certain caveats to an eventual decision to play a role in the coalition being constructed by the US. The Islamic State has been holding 49 Turkish hostages since June 11 when it raided the Turkish consulate in Mosul, northern Iraq. Turkey’s consul general is among the hostages.
“Turkey’s participation in every development and in every step that will be taken within the region is our allies’ desire. But we openly told them what will happen, how it will happen, what we will do and what we will not do,” said Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu, speaking before Hagel held talks with governmental and military leaders of the country later in the day.
Çavusoglu said no decision has been made about how to make the coalition happen.