Turkey, US Set to Finalize Deal to Train 'Moderate' Syrian Militants

Turkey, US Set to Finalize Deal to Train ‘Moderate’ Syrian Militants © AP Photo/ Aleppo Media Center AMC

22:17 05.01.2015

MOSCOW, January 5 (Sputnik) — Turkish and US officials appear to be close to finalizing an agreement on the provision of training and equipment to the so-called moderate Syrian rebels on Turkish soil, a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

“Around 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected to be trained in Turkey (in the first year),” the unnamed official noted, adding that a “limited number” of about 100 US troops would assist in the militants’ training.

The training is set to begin in March in conjunction with similar programs being planned in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The program’s aim is to train 15,000 Syrian rebels over the course of three years, in an attempt to topple the government of Bashar Assad, who has been fighting a two front war over the past three years with the Free Syrian Army on the one hand, and radical Islamic fundamentalists, including the Islamic State, on the other.

The training is reportedly expected to take place at a military base in Kirsehir, central Turkey, Reuters explained.

Ankara and Washington earlier appeared to have differences of opinion on how to resolve the crisis in Syria and Iraq, Turkey refusing to join the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State, while simultaneously pushing for the speedy overthrow of Assad, including via the proposal to establish a no-fly zone in Syria aimed at the Syrian army.

A four-day period of negotiations between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition is scheduled to take place at the end of January in Moscow in an effort to end the conflict between supporters of the Assad government and their non-Islamic fundamentalist opponents.

The Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 following anti-government protests as part of the Arab Spring revolutionary fervor and has since claimed the lives of almost 200,000 people, with 2.3 million people forced to flee the country and 6.5 million internally displaced, according to UN estimates.

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