US top general Dunford visits Ankara

US General Joseph Dunford has served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2015 (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Ankara (AFP) - The top US general Joseph Dunford on Sunday made a previously unannounced visit to Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart, the army said, as Kurdish-Arab forces launched an operation to capture the jihadist bastion of Raqa in Syria.

The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff was to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, the army said, without giving further details.

The Kurdish-Arab force leading the fight to take the Syrian city of Raqa from the control of Islamic State jihadists had said earlier that Washington had agreed Turkey would play no role in the offensive.

Ankara had previously expressed alarm that the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were dominated by the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) militia.

It considers the YPG to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency against Ankara for more than three decades.

Turkey has repeatedly targeted the YPG inside Syria and indicated it would not support any operation that involved its fighters.

But US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had vowed during a visit to Ankara last month to ramp up joint efforts with Turkey to deal IS jihadists a "lasting defeat".

Turkey is staging its own operation inside Syria to back pro-Ankara rebels seeking to oust IS jihadists from the border area but also targeting YPG fighters.

Ankara has largely looked out from the sidelines at the US-backed Iraqi operation to retake Mosul from the jihadists, expressing alarm over the potential roles of anti-Ankara Kurdish fighters and Shiite militia.

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