Turkey, U.S. sign deal to train and equip Syrian rebels

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Turkey and the United States signed an agreement on Thursday for training and equipping the Syrian rebels, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by U.S. Ambassador John Bass and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, Cavusoglu told reporters.

The Syrian rebels to be trained and equiped will both fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants and Syrian government forces, Cavusoglu stated.

The deal is an important step taken as part of strategic partnership between Turkey and the U.S., Anadolu Agency quoted Sinirlioglu as saying during the signing ceremony.

"This is just the first step. We have many to do. There are chaotic situations in the region and in many places of the world. Therefore, we believe we can make difference if we work together," Sinirlioglu said.

Ambassador Bass, for his part, said Turkey and the U.S. are stronger when they work together.

The program, will be launched in March, aims to train a total of 15,000 Syrian opposition fighters in the three-year period, and 5,000 of them will be trained at a military base in the central Turkish city of Kirsehir.

Washington has said earlier that the priority is not Assad but the threat from the IS. Endit

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