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Turkey, U.S. start train-equip program for Syrian rebels
Turkey and the United States have started a program for training and equipping Syrian rebels in Kirsehir province of central Turkey, local daily HaberTurk reported on Tuesday.
"We have started the train-equip program with a small number (of Syrians). The reason of delay was logistics, it was about personnel and equipment transferred from the U.S.. Our soldiers and the U.S. soldiers are providing the training," the report quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying.
The program has been delayed several times since Turkey and the U.S. signed the agreement in February.
The program aims to train a total of 15,000 Syrian opposition fighters during a three-year period, 5,000 of whom will be trained at Hirfanli military base in Kirsehir.
The trained rebels should enter Syria through a secured area, the minister said, stressing that they could not cross through regions that are controlled by Islamic State (IS) militants.
Turkish and the American soldiers, as well as intelligence services, are discussing a secure place, the minister said.
Cavusoglu also reiterated the need for a no-fly zone protection for trained Syrian opposition fighters from air strikes by the Syrian authorities.
"Will it be a notification or something else, we are technically working on this," he stated.
The Turkish government has long been backing military movement to topple Assad's Syrian government, while Damascus slams Ankrara for supporting terrorism in the war-torn country.
[Source: Xinhua, Ankara, 26May15]
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