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Turkey proposes joint operations with Russia against IS

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says proposal is 'on the table' as Russian air strikes reported to have killed at least 30 people in Raqqa
Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had always called on Russia to work with it against IS and would "discuss all details" (Reuters)

Turkey on Thursday called for Russia to carry out joint operations against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, after crucial talks between President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at ending a crisis in ties.

"We will discuss all the details. We have always called on Russia to carry out anti-Daesh (IS) operations together," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a live interview with the private NTV television, adding that the proposal was still "on the table".

"Let's fight against the terrorist group together, so that we can clear it out as soon as possible," the minister said, warning otherwise that the group would keep on expanding and spread into other countries.

'We have always called on Russia to carry out anti-Daesh (IS) operations together'

The Turkish offer comes after a months-long diplomatic dispute between Moscow and Ankara following the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces near the Syrian border last November.

Putin slapped economic sanctions on Turkey and launched a blistering war of words with Erdogan.

But in June Putin accepted a letter expressing regret over the incident from Erdogan as an apology and rolled back on economic bans across tourism, food imports and construction among others.

Now Western capitals fear that Turkey, a NATO member which has allowed US forces to use an air base for raids against IS, could draw even closer to Moscow. Erdogan has said several times that he feels betrayed by the United States and the European Union following the failed coup against him on 15 July.

The three-person Turkish delegation in Moscow, made up of representatives from the military, intelligence and foreign service, is tasked with implementing agreed between Putin and Erdogan on Tuesday, Cavusoglu said.

"I believe the mechanism will contribute to this process," he added.

Cavusoglu said close cooperation between Turkey and Russia would help prevent incidents in the future like the plane crisis.

"Many countries are engaged in Syria actively. There could be mistakes," he said.

"In order to prevent that, we need to put into practice the solidarity and cooperation (mechanism) between us including sharing of real time intelligence."

Cavusoglu also said real time communication was also needed between the two presidents and the military officials of the two countries.

Fresh raids hit Raqaa

Reports of the Ankara-Moscow initiative emerged as Russian air strikes on the IS bastion of Raqqa in northern Syria on Thursday killed at least 30 people, including 24 civilians, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said they were killed and dozens of people wounded when 10 Russian raids hit the city and its outskirts.

The monitor said it had not yet confirmed how many of the remaining six people killed were civilians or IS fighters.

The UK-based Observatory - which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information - says it determines what planes carried out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.

'There has been a big escalation by Russian warplanes'

Russia confirmed that six Tupolev warplanes carried out airstrikes around Raqqa, but said it had demolished "a chemical weapons factory in the city's northwestern outskirts".

The defence ministry said the raids also destroyed a weapons storage facility and a training camp for IS fighters to the north and southeast.

The ministry said IS had suffered "significant material damages" in the strikes and that "a large number of fighters have been killed".

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