Turkey forces aid group Mercy Corps to shut down its operations

Hulusi Akar, U.S. Chairman of Joint Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and Russian Valery Gerasimov all met in Antalya, according to a written statement issued by Turkey's top military brass.

The talks, announced by Turkey, come amid rising tensions in northern Syria, where Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters, US -backed Kurdish-led forces and Russian-allied Syrian troops are fighting their way toward the IS group's de facto capital, Raqqa.

Turkey has sought the support of the US, its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, to lead a ground offensive against Islamic State's main Syrian stronghold of Raqqa that would advance through areas controlled by Kurdish fighters, a Turkish official said last week.

The US and Turkey are also discussing plans to recapture ISIL's self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria.

According to our sources, President Donald Trump decided, after consulting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, that the United States army would go it alone in the Raqqa offensive together with a single local force: the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Both Moscow and Washington confirmed the three-way talks in Antalya.

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More recently, we have provided a range of social services and other emergency assistance in Turkey, reaching about 100,000 Syrian and Turkish men, women and children in 2016 alone.

In the latest development, the US and Russian Federation, once the primary sponsors of opposing forces in the war, have adopted a joint position against mutual ally Turkey, giving a major boost to forces loyal and sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

At the same time, the Turkish military, allied with the Free Syrian Army militias, have been threatening to attack Manbij, where they suspect that elements of the Syrian Kurdish YPG, or People's Protection Units, still hold sway. The U.S. -led coalition "has taken this deliberate action to reassure coalition members and partner forces, deter aggression and keep the focus on defeating ISIS", spokesman Col. John Dorrian said on Twitter.

Top commanders of Turkey, the United States and Russian Federation met in southern Antalya province of Turkey on Tuesday and discussed deconfliction measures for their military operations against terror groups in Syria. Before, the two officers had not met face-to-face since 2014, when the United States broke off most contact between the USA and Russian militaries after Moscow launched military operations in Ukraine and annexed that country's Crimean Peninsula as its own.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in Turkey. The aim is to prevent them coming under Turkish control.

Mercy Corps said the Turkish government had not given a specific reason for the decision, which will mean ending a programme that provides regular assistance to hundreds of thousands of besieged Syrian civilians and refugees. Army Lt. Gen. Steven Townsend, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters March 1 that all the forces acting in Syria "have converged literally within hand-grenade range of one another".

  • Sonia Alvarado