Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday fiercely denied suggestions Turkey was assisting Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists, accusing "dark powers" of spreading false propaganda about his country.
During a visit to Indonesia, the president said Turkey had suffered "significant losses" in its battle against terrorists but was determined to
keep up the fight, pointing to military operations launched by Ankara in the last few days.
Turkey launched strikes against ISIS last week following a devastating suicide bombing in a border town, and shortly after gave the US approval to use the strategic Incirlik air base near the Syrian border for anti-ISIS raids.
But after initially targeting the ISIS group, the campaign has become increasingly focused on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, with the Turkish air force launching a wave of new assaults on PKK targets.
Western officials have revealed Ankara collaborated with ISIS according to documents seized from the hideout of an ISIS leader, while Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party claims Erdogan is using strikes against the jihadists as "cover" for its main goal of eroding the PKK.
Though not naming the PKK, Erdogan said "dark powers" were spreading misinformation about Turkey, dismissing accusations against Turkey as "ungrounded and unjustified."
"Unfortunately these dark powers or circles try to convey the image – the black propaganda – that Turkey is actually assisting this kind of terrorist organization," Erdogan, through a translator, told an audience at a military think-tank in Jakarta at the start of a two-day visit to Indonesia.
"Never has Turkey been involved in this kind of a scenario… and never will it be."
Syria's foreign ministry this week also expressed skepticism about Turkish efforts to fight ISIS, suggesting internal factors were at play.
Turkey had long been reluctant to take action against ISIS. Its failure to let US planes use Incirlik for raids against ISIS in Syria had caused severe irritation in Washington.
Turkey's decision to lump ISIS together with Kurdish forces who bitterly oppose the jihadist group has surprised some Western allies, but analysts have linked the decision to Erdogan using the campaign as a pretext to fight the Kurds – particularly after his party lost badly in elections to a pro-Kurdish party.
Turkey is without a full-time government, even as it presses cross-border military operations against jihadists in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
Some critics accuse Erdogan of launching the military operation in the hope of triggering early elections to try reverse the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) lackluster performance in the legislative polls.
"It remains to be seen if a coalition will be formed," Erdogan told reporters earlier Friday. "If not, we should turn to the national will immediately so that people will decide again and we will emerge out of the current situation," he said.
The AKP took power in 2002 as a single party government after rocky coalition governments in the 1990s and a severe financial meltdown in 2001.
Erdogan made clear he had little enthusiasm for coalitions.
"If we expect them (coalitions) to bring benefits to our country, it is in vain," he said. "Investments will not flow if there is no stability and trust."
The results of the June 7 polls were seen as a major blow for Erdogan, who wants to create a presidential system in Turkey to consolidate his power.
AFP contributed to this report.