Turkey: Training for Syrian opposition forces to start soon
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman says views overlap with Saudi Arabia on Syria

The train-and-equip program for Syrian opposition forces will start soon in Turkey, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed Friday.

In remarks made at the weekly press briefing, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said: "The program will start soon."

Turkey and the U.S. inked a deal on Feb. 19 to train and equip Syrian opposition forces which aims to achieve a political transformation in the war-torn country on the basis of the Geneva Communique.

Regarding the allegations appearing in media that the program would not start, Bilgic said: "These claims are baseless and speculative."

Bilgic added that the program has legal infrastructure.

"The program continues as planned. There is no problem in the preparations," he said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on May 2 that Turkey would start a "train-and-equip" program for Syrian opposition fighters on May 9, with U.S. involvement, to enable them to fight Daesh and the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. has begun to train a group of approximately 90 Syrian rebels, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed Thursday, saying that a second group will begin training in the coming weeks.

Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all agreed to host training sites.

Touching upon some reports that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are forming a military alliance to help the rebels fight the Assad regime, Bilgic said: "Our views coincide with Saudi Arabia on Syria."

"Turkey cooperates not only with Saudi Arabia but other alliances as well, like Britain and U.S.," Bilgic said.


Allegation of main opposition party official

The Secretary-General of the Republican People's Party, Gursel Tekin, claimed Turkish troops will intervene in Syria within two days. He made the allegations in comments published Thursday in Turkish newspaper Taraf.

Tekin told the daily: " Turkey will send troops toSyria either tomorrow evening or the following day," adding the information had come from a "very reliable source."

The Foreign Ministry spokesman Bilgic said: "As of today [Friday] it is two days overdue. The Turkish army did not enter Syria."

"It is pointless to comment too much on it. It is already clear that these allegations are not true," he added.


1915 events

"We recalled our ambassadors in the countries which used the word "genocide" for the first time, like Austria, Vatican and Luxembourg," said Bilgic.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in Luxembourg after Luxembourg's parliament described the 1915 incidents in the Ottoman Empire as "genocide."

"Our consultations [with ambassadors] on sanctions and measures continue. It is not expected that these ambassadors will return soon," said Bilgic.

The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted.

The relocation by the Ottomans of Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts resulted in numerous casualties.

Turkey does not dispute that there were casualties on both sides, but rejects the use of the word "genocide."


Turks abroad to vote for June general election

Turkish citizens living in Australia went to polling stations Friday to become the first to cast their ballots ahead of Turkey’s general election on June 7.

Bilgic said Melahat Ozkan was the first person who voted at the Turkish Consulate General in Melbourne.

"As of April 2015, the number of our registered voters abroad is 2.8 million. The number of registered voters in Germany is about 1.4 million," said Bilgic.

He added that Turkey hopes that voters abroad go to the polls and that the participation rate would be high.

Turkey's Supreme Election Board had announced earlier that 112 polling stations would be opened in 54 countries to serve the almost 3 million Turkish nationals living abroad.

Turks living in Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Switzerland and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will be able to vote from May 8 to May 31.

Polling stations for Turkish citizens living outside the country, who will cast their votes at border-crossing points, will be open until June 7.

June’s contest will be for the election of 550 members of parliament from 20 political parties competing in the country's 25th general election.

Last Modified: 2015-05-08 12:14:10
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