Aliyev Holds Talks with U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair
BAKU, Azerbaijan (RFE/RL)—Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has held talks with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in Baku.
Azerbaijan’s presidential administration said the talks between Aliyev and General Joseph Dunford were held on February 16.
Azerbaijani officials said the two discussed bilateral political and economic cooperation, Baku’s contribution to international peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan, and joint activities in energy security and defense.
According to Hurriyet Daily News, Dunford will pay a visit to Turkey on February 17 for discussions on the Raqqa offensive, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık has stated.
“We’ll asses if we can do the Raqqa operation together. What I see is that the U.S. has yet to decide on this issue. The upcoming days will be influential for the U.S. in making its final decision,” Işık told reporters on Thursday.
“If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region, not the YPG,” he said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia.
Işık said he got the impression from meetings with U.S. officials that the new U.S. administration has a “more flexible” approach to Syria and is not insisting on the YPG being involved in the operation to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) out of its Raqqa stronghold.
“The new U.S. administration has a different approach to the issue. They are not insisting anymore that the operation should definitely be carried out with the YPG. They haven’t yet made up their minds,” he added.
Earlier reports said that Dunford also planned to meet his counterpart, Russian General Valery Gerasimov, in Baku on February 16.
A statement released by Dunford’s office on February 15 said their agenda would focus on “the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on February 16 in Bonn, Germany.
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