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U.S. resumes airstrikes against IS as Turkey reopens air base

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. on Sunday resumed flight operations from a Turkish airbase to launch airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) after Turkey reopened its airspace closed in the wake of a failed coup attempt.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane after a visit to Afghanistan, Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the reopening of the Incirlik Air Base in southwestern Turkey.

"We resumed flight operations today, and airspace is opened back up -- business as usual," Dunford told Pentagon reporters, adding there are no plans to change the U.S. force posture in Turkey.

"Our relationship with Turkey as a NATO ally is broad -- politically, economically and from a security perspective," he said.

In terms of urgency, the United States is most concerned about the counter-IS fight and its partnership with Turkey in the fight, Dunford said.

The border area between Turkey and Syria is critical, as foreign fighters and money flow across the border, the general noted.

"The Turkish-Syrian border is important to isolate the battlefield in Syria," he said, "and so we're watching that pretty closely, too."

Dunford expressed relief that Turkey "bounced back pretty quickly" in the first 24 hours in terms of facilitating operations in Syria.

Turkey closed the airspace of the Incirlik Air Base and cut commercial power supply to it following Friday's military coup attempt, in which at least 290 people, including 190 civilians, were killed.

The coup attempt appears to have further strained Ankara's ties with Washington, as Turkey accused a U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of plotting the coup, while demanding Gulen's extradition by the U.S. government.

Speaking in Luxembourg Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would consider Turkey's request for Gulen's extradition on condition that Turkey proves the cleric's wrongdoing.

Turkey and the United States are NATO allies in fighting terrorism, but their relations had already become tricky before the coup attempt after Turkey tried to repair its relationship with Russia, by offering an apology to Moscow for shooting down a Russian warplane last year.

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