Top US general in Ankara to discuss Syria crisis

The top US general on Monday discussed the Syrian crisis with officials in Ankara, as Turkey’s premier criticised Washington for inaction over the conflict. General Martin Dempsey’s visit is part of an “operational planning” mechanism established between Turkey and the United States to prepare for the aftermath of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with senior Turkish officials, including his counterpart Necdet Ozelwas. Apart from Syria, he was also expected to discuss a range of other issues during his visit including counter-terrorism and Iran’s nuclear programme. Turkey has floated the idea of a “safe zone” to protect refugees fleeing the violence in Syria but that would require foreign military protection, an idea Washington has rejected. “The United States is currently not involved in this issue,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Monday in Turkish media, as he criticised the Americans for not fulfilling “what is expected of them.” “Countries that are rather active are Russia and China,” he said. The death toll from the 18-month-old Syrian conflict has risen to more than 27,000 people, according to a tally by activists. More than 250,000 Syrians have fled the violence to neighbouring countries.

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