September 11, 2014 / 4:53 PM / 5 years ago

Kerry to visit Turkey to bolster campaign against Islamic State

ANKARA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Turkey on Friday as part of a tour of the Middle East to rally efforts to tackle the Islamic State militant group, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Turkey is seen as a crucial if reluctant ally in the fight against Islamic State, which controls large parts of Syria and has seized territory in the oil-rich north of Iraq.

Kerry will meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, as well as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Tayyip Erdogan during his two-day visit to the capital Ankara, the ministry said.

“In these meetings, bilateral, regional and global issues on our joint agenda, as well as opportunities for further developing our relations and cooperation will be elaborated on,” the statement added, without giving further details.

Kerry visited Saudi Arabia on Thursday to secure Arab support.

NATO member Turkey has long had close strategic ties with Washington, but Turkish officials have expressed concerns over the country’s role in any efforts to tackle Islamic State.

Some 46 Turkish nationals, including a senior diplomat, have been held by the militants since June, after they seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul. Erdogan has warned against jeopardizing efforts to have them released.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced extended bombing raids against Islamic State targets in Iraq and authorized them in Syria for the first time. He said the United States would work with regional allies to tackle the threat.

In a visit to Ankara this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Turkey would play a role in the fight against Islamic State, but that the country’s “limitations” would be respected.

“They want to play roles, specific roles. They will play those. (They) will be articulated by the Turkish government - not by me - when that decision is made,” he added.

Editing by Alison Williams

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