ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey wants the operation on Raqqa, Islamic State’s main stronghold in Syria, to start after Mosul and Euphrates Shield operations have been completed, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday.
“Turkey’s stance on the Raqqa operation is clear. It would be better both militarily and strategically to conduct this operation after the Mosul operation and Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation are completed,” Kurtulmus told reporters in Ankara.
Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters started the offensive on Mosul on Oct. 17, with air and ground support from the U.S.-led coalition against the hardline Sunni group. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter last week said Washington expected it to overlap with the Raqqa offensive.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters that it was important to continue to put pressure on Islamic State in Raqqa.
“We continue to talk on a regular basis with the Turkish leadership about the best approach to addressing the fight for Raqqa,” Cook said during a briefing in Washington on Monday.
“But we have to keep the pressure on and we have to move forward and challenge ISIL in its so-called capital of its caliphate,” Cook said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Last week, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said there was a need to urgently move to isolate Raqqa because of concerns about the group using the city as a base to plan and launch against targets abroad.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk and Alan Crosby