ANKARA — Turkish warplanes have for the first time joined raids by the US-led coalition against Islamic State positions in Syria, the foreign ministry said Saturday, after Washington urged Ankara to play a full role in the battle against the jihadists.
"Our fighter planes ... along with planes from the coalition yesterday (Friday) evening began joint operations against [IS] targets which pose a threat to the security of our country," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Turkey, which had been accused of complacency towards the IS fighters in neighboring Syria, last month launched what it called a war on terror on two fronts: targeting IS jihadists in Syria and also Kurdish PKK rebels and their bases in northern Iraq.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter last week called on Turkey to commit to a full part in the US-led air campaign and take better control of its border with Syria.
Carter said Ankara had agreed in principle to join the anti-IS coalition but should add its own fighter planes to the "air tasking order," the military structure coordinating strikes.
"They need to join the ATO (Air Tasking Order) and they need to work more on controlling their border. And we've made that clear," he said.
"Their leadership has indicated that this needs to be done. It's overdue, because it's a year into the campaign, but they're indicating some considerable effort now."
The Turkish move came after 33 people were killed in an attack on July 20 in its southeast blamed on IS.
Ankara and Washington also announced on August 24 an accord to allow US planes to launch strikes against IS from a Turkish base.
And on Tuesday the Pentagon said that the US and Turkey had "finalized technical details for Turkey's full inclusion" in the anti-IS operations.
Turkey's involvement in the battle against the IS militants had been limited as it focused on an air and ground campaign against the Kurdish PKK separatists.
The escalating violence between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, shattering a 2013 ceasefire, has for now killed off hopes of ending the three-decade-long insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The military offensive in the border region with Syria and Iraq, with the deaths so far of around 60 Turkish security forces, has added to the political turmoil in the country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was forced to call new elections after his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in parliament in June and then failed to form a coalition government with the opposition.
Erdogan on Wednesday urged voters to choose "stability" in the November 1 polls — in a clear message to vote for the AKP thereby avoiding the instability caused by shaky coalition governments that marred Turkish politics before the party came to power in 2002.