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US, Turkey Discuss Ways to Back Syrian Opposition in IS Fight


FILE - Turkish artillery fire from the border toward northern Syria, in Kilis, Turkey, Feb. 16, 2016.

FILE - Turkish artillery fire from the border toward northern Syria, in Kilis, Turkey, Feb. 16, 2016.

U.S. and Turkish authorities are discussing ways to support the moderate Syrian opposition in the effort to push Islamic State from the Turkish border farther east in Syria.

Speaking to members of the Diplomacy Correspondents Association on Thursday in Ankara, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass said the two countries had the same goals in fighting Islamic State.

"Some of these groups are now able to devote more of their attention to clearing Daesh [Islamic State] out of the area around Manbij," he said, "and we are determined to work closely and provide all the support we can, with our friends and partners here in Turkey and with many of the other members of the coalition, to enable them to be successful, and we will continue to do that. ... I think it's important to remember that the United States and Turkey share the same goals in Syria."

Watch video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke:

​Bass also called on Kurdish rebels to lay down their arms in Turkey. He said any return to a peace process could be possible only if the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) ended its attacks.

"We call again on the PKK to stop its campaign of violence, to put down its weapons and to undertake a legitimate conversation, to the extent there are opportunities to do so, in a manner in which the citizens of this country conclude is acceptable, to talk about the underlying problems or grievances which have contributed to the violence," he said.

Bass also said that the U.S. does not provide weapons to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which is affiliated with the PKK. Washington is opposed to any efforts by the group to change the demography of a region "under the guise" of fighting Islamic State.

Turkey has accused the YPG of "cleansing" towns of ethnic Arabs and Turkmens.

VOA's Turkish service contributed to this report

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