September 23, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he is considering expanding support for Western and Arab operations against the Islamic State group to include military involvement.

His comments Tuesday to Turkish reporters in New York mark a potential shift in Turkey’s position on international efforts to fight the group, hours after the U.S. and Arab allies launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Erdogan spoke on the sidelines of an annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he expects a more robust role for Turkey in the fight against the Islamic State group after Ankara secured the release of 49 Turkish hostages that were being held by the extremist group.

Turkey, a U.S. ally and NATO member, has so far not committed to a U.S.-led coalition to take on the militants, who have swallowed large chunks of Syria and Iraq. It made commitments at various regional conferences to help in the effort against the Islamic State group, but help has been limited so far, Kerry said.

On Tuesday, Erdogan seemed to signal that might change. “Of course, we will do our part. God willing, we will also discuss it together with our government,” Erdogan told reporters according to Turkey’s DHA news agency.

Asked what role Turkey was considering, he said: “It includes everything. Both military and political.” President Barack Obama was not scheduled to have a formal bilateral meeting with Erdogan in New York, though the leaders are likely to have some interaction on the sidelines of the session.

Turkey is a main backer of Syrian rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has allowed thousands of foreign fighters cross into Syria along their common border.