TURKISH PRIME MINISTER SET TO MEET US MILITARY CHIEF



Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yidirim, is set to meet the head of the US military, General Joseph Dunford, on Monday, a report said.
It said that was the first of such meeting since the failed coup that led to thousands of purges, including that of high-ranking officers in Turkey’s armed forces.
Last week, US defence officials expressed concerns that the purges could have negative consequences for the war against the Islamic State extremist group.
Key interlocutors in Turkey have been detained or purged, US officials said.
The remarks on how the post-coup purges could impact military operations drew the ire of the Turkish leadership, which blames a Turkish-born cleric living in the US, Fethullah Gulen, for the coup.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed US officials were taking the side of the coup plotters.
The US launches airstrikes from the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey.
The Turkish commander of the base was arrested for alleged links to the coup, highlighting the potential problems ahead.
The report said: “Dunford will be reaffirming the importance of our enduring partnership for regional security as symbolised by coalition operations out of Incirlik in the counter-ISIL fight.
“He is expected to visit the base.”
More than 1,600 officers, including about 150 generals, more than a third of all officers at this high rank – have been discharged from the military since the July 15 coup attempt.
Turkish pro-government media outlets have also alleged that US agencies and high-ranking soldiers had a hand in the failed coup attempt, adding to anti-American sentiment.
The US has repeatedly denied any involvement.
Washington was among the first nations to condemn the coup attempt, in a statement issued within hours of rouge soldiers trying to take over parts of Istanbul and Ankara.
US and Turkish relations have been strained over the approach to the civil war in Syria, even as both believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should not be part of a future government.
Last year, after long negotiations, the US finally convinced Turkey to open Incirlik to operations against Islamic State.
The US backs Kurdish forces in Syria battling Islamic State, while Turkey is opposed to this aid.
Turkish government spokesman, Numan Kurtulmus, told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the US should have more empathy for Turkey and repeated his demand for Gulen’s extradition.
The US has said it would weigh the merits of a full, formal extradition request when filed.
Kurtulmus also said Turkey would launch wide-ranging reforms of the military, which could take a year.
Using state of emergency decrees, Turkey has already begun to insert more civilian oversight on the armed forces, which have staged several coups in the country’s history and enjoy a great degree of autonomy.
Erdogan has said he wants a constitutional reform to bring the general staff of Turkey’s army under presidential authority.
Meanwhile, an unnamed government official said the coup plotters who were part of a squad aimed at assassinating Erdogan during the putsch have largely been captured.
He said only one of a group of 11 soldiers remains free after a series of arrests in forests in south-western Turkey.
He said local hunters had tipped off the authorities.
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