Turkey, Russia, US military chiefs hold talks in Turkey

Turkish, Russian and US military chiefs held talks today in the southern Turkish city of Antalya to discuss regional issues including Iraq and Syria, according to the Turkish army.

Military Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar met with his U.S. counterpart Joseph Francis Dunford and his Russian counterpart Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov in Antalya, Turkey, on Tuesday.
“Common issues relating to regional security, in particular Syria and Iraq, are being discussed at the meeting,” the Turkish army said in a statement, without elaborating further.
Regional security issues, particularly Syria and Iraq, were on the agenda of the three top generals.

The meeting, which appears to be the first of its kind, came ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-day visit to Moscow, which is expected to start on Thursday.

In the past, Antalya hosted several NATO meetings, as well as the G20 summit in 2015.

Moscow also confirmed the meeting, with the defence ministry saying in a statement to Russian news agencies: “A joint discussion on security issues in Syria and Iraq is planned at the event.”

The talks come a day after Turkey stepped back from threats to strike Syrian Kurdish militia forces deployed in former Islamic State group (IS) bastion of Manbij in Syria, unless it was in cooperation with Russia and the United States.

“It makes no sense to launch an operation in Manbij without the cooperation of Russia and the United States,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised interview.

His announcement stood in stark contrast to previous threats from Ankara that it would hit Syrian Kurdish militia — considered “terrorists” by Turkey — unless they withdrew from Manbij.

Turkey had often said that the next target of its cross-border Syria campaign would be the flashpoint town of Manbij, which is now controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a group dominated by Kurdish fighters.

Ankara has launched an ambitious military campaign inside Syria since late August, backing Syrian opposition fighters and recaptured several towns near its border from IS including Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Dabiq and Al-Bab.

The Turkish campaign is also aimed at stopping the advance of Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara accuses of being the Syrian branch of an outlawed Kurdish militant group.