Turkey says U.S.-led program to train Syrian opposition experiences 'minor delay'

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2015 4:07 AM

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A U.S.-led program to train Syrian opposition forces to fight hardline Islamic State militants, which was due to begin earlier this month, has experienced "a minor delay", Turkey's foreign minister said on Friday.

"There is no delay from our side," Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with Turkey's NTV television. "Because of U.S. (geographic) distance, there has been a minor delay but everything is fine both politically and technically," he said.

U.S. officials have said they plan to train about 5,000 Syrian fighters annually for three years under the program, which was due to begin in March after Washington signed a deal with Ankara.

Turkey hopes the training will also bolster the weakened and divided Syrian opposition in its war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey would also be open to contributions from a third country to the program, Cavusoglu said, a day after Britain's Defense Minister said London would send around 75 military personnel to join the training.

"No decision has been made on this. But if such a proposal comes from Britain, we would assess this and in principal we would not say 'No' to this, we would be sympathetic," he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by David Dolan and Susan Fenton)