August 13, 2015 / 9:15 AM / 2 years ago

Turkey does not plan to send ground forces to Syria: foreign minister

A Turkish soldier stands guard at the Turkish-Syrian border in Karkamis, bordering with the Islamic State-held Syrian town of Jarablus, in Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 1, 2015.Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey does not expect to deploy ground forces in Syria to fight Islamic State but that option should remain on the table, Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu said on Thursday.

Long a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, NATO member Turkey last month made a dramatic shift in policy, sending warplanes to attack the Islamist hardline group in northern Syria. It has also opened its air bases for use in coalition air strikes.

However, it has not launched ground operations in Syria.

"Right now, no ground operation is envisaged, but in the future whatever is needed to fight Islamic State - including ground operations - should be done. This is my personal opinion," Cavusoglu told HaberTurk TV in an interview.

The United States launched its first manned air strikes against Islamic State targets from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

Reporting by Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Gareth Jones

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