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US drones and aircraft arrive in Turkey to begin "extensive" fight against ISIS

US drones and aircraft arrive in Turkey to begin "extensive" fight against ISIS

US drones and aircraft have begun arriving at a Turkish air base near Syria and an "extensive" fight against Islamic State (IS) militants will soon begin, Turkey's foreign minister said.

Meanwhile Syria's foreign minister said that Damascus would support efforts against IS, as long as the fight is in co-ordination with the Syrian government.

Ending years of reluctance, Turkey late last month carried out airstrikes against IS targets in Syria and agreed to allow US warplanes to use Incirlik Air Base for operations, taking a more front-line role in the US-led coalition's fight against the extremists.

US officials said the first armed drone missions out of Turkey began last weekend and that the military was planning to add manned aircraft flights from the country. Officials said that so far, none of the drones had launched airstrikes, but they may begin soon.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an Asean meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the battle would begin soon, but did not elaborate.

"As part of the agreement reached with the United States, we have made great strides on the technicalities of Incirlik's use and the U.S. aircraft have started to arrive," he said.

"Soon we will together start an extensive battle against Daesh." Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The Turkish minister also told reporters that once the "effective" fight has begun, the ground would become safer for moderate opposition forces fighting IS.

His comments came following reports that members of the Free Syrian Army who went through a US training programme to fight IS militants were captured by the al Qaida-linked Nusra Front in Syria.

Syrian's state media quoted foreign minister Walid al-Moallem as saying in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday said the fight against the IS should be co-ordinated with Syria.

"We are with any effort to fight Daesh as long as it is in coordination with the Syrian government otherwise it is an infringement on Syria's sovereignty," Mr al-Moallem said.

Mr al-Moallem has been in Iran since Tuesday where he is believed to have been discussing an Iranian initiative to try to end Syria's four-year conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people.

According to the Lebanon-based pro-Syrian Al-Mayadeen TV the four-point Iranian initiative calls for an immediate ceasefire, formation of a national unity government, amending the constitution in what reassures ethnic and religious minorities and holding elections under the supervision of international observers.

Iran is Syria's strongest ally in the region and has backed Bashar Assad since the country's crisis began in March 2011.