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Tillerson, Turkish Officials Discuss Plans to Defeat Islamic State


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) poses with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2017.

American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Ankara on Thursday for talks with Turkish leaders.

Tillerson met with Turkey’s president and foreign minister. They talked about efforts to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group and how to reduce the number of refugees in the Middle East.

United States-led forces are increasing their offensive to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the militant group.

Anti-Islamic State coalition partners are looking for ways to return security to areas from which militants have fled. They also want to give refugees a chance to return home.

The talks in Ankara were held a day after Turkey declared an end to its seven-month-old military operation in northern Syria. The operation was aimed at clearing IS militants and Syrian Kurds from along the border between Syria and Turkey.

Turkish officials have described the operation as a success. They did not rule out the possibility of future raids.

It is not clear how the Turkish actions will change northern Syria, where the Syrian government, Islamic State, Kurdish forces and rebel groups are all competing for territory.

Turkish troops are still guarding security areas, where the government also hopes to keep Kurdish forces from creating a self-governing territory.

The government considers the Kurdish fighters an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK. The group has been fighting for 30 years against government forces in southeastern Turkey.

The Turkish operations in northern Syria are ending two weeks before Turkey’s planned constitutional referendum. Turkish voters are being asked whether to give new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Professor Jonathan Adelman is with the University of Denver in the United States. He told VOA there is a good chance that the Turks are ending their campaign, but will keep their soldiers right where they are.

“What really matters in Turkey right now is the feeling that Erdogan wants to win the upcoming election, and this could be, and probably is, tied to that, to say, ‘You see, I won. It’s all over. No more Turks are dying…’”

Adelman says Turkish announcement also takes attention away from the fact that many extremists entered Syria from Turkey.

“It also helps take attention away from the fact that thousands of terrorists went through Turkey on their way into Syria because Erdogan has failed in his basic effort, which was to destroy the Bashar al-Assad government.”

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tested by U.S. support for the Kurdish militia force YPG, which is fighting in Syria. In addition, Turkey wants the U.S. government to expel Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim clergyman living in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Turkish officials accuse him of plotting last year’s failed attempt to overthrow the government.

I’m Caty Weaver.

This story was based on reports from VOANews.com. George Grow adapted the information for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

basic – adj. of or relating to the main idea

affairsn. work or activities done for a purpose

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