Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel shakes hands with Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan at Çankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel shakes hands with Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan at Çankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett

As the Anti-Islamic State Coalition Takes Shape, Turkey Remains Reluctant

While 10 Arab countries agreed to partner with the U.S. against the Islamic State group, Turkish hostages remain an obstacle to Ankara's commitment. By Kaveh Waddell

Ten Arab states have pledged to join the U.S. in its campaign to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, while some American allies in Europe are less eager to sign up to fight.

The agreement came out of talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and regional leaders in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the coalition includes Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Notably missing from this list is Turkey. Although the Obama administration has called the country "absolutely indispensable" in the campaign against ISIS, Turkey has so far been reluctant to join the fight outright. Turkish leaders are wary of the fate of Turkish diplomats and nationals being held hostage by the group, and concerned with the international effort to arm Kurdish fighters, some of whom have been agitating for independence from Turkey for decades. Turkey was present at the meeting of regional leaders in Jeddah.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Great Britain and Germany, two of Europe's staunchest American allies, announced Thursday that the countries will not participate in the U.S. campaign in Syria. "Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any airstrikes in Syria," said Foreign Minister Philip Hammond. "We have already had that discussion in our Parliament last year and we won't be revisiting that position."

Neither country's foreign minister gave a clear answer on whether or not their countries would get more involved in Iraq. Hammond said that he supported Obama's coalition-building approach to the fight, and that Britain had "ruled nothing out" in its deliberations of how to help.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was more emphatic in pledging his country's support. "We will participate, if necessary, in military air action" in Iraq, Fabius said. In Syria, however, France will tread carefully to make sure that it does not find itself allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Fabius explained.

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