Turkey Holds Coalition Talks

Turkey Holds Coalition Talks

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is set to meet the leader of Turkey's pro-secular party on Thursday for talks to decide whether their ideologically opposed parties can form a coalition government. But many in the ruling party favor new elections instead, and prospects for an alliance look dim.

Davutoglu's Islamic-rooting ruling party lost its majority in elections in June, forcing it to seek a coalition alliance to remain in power. Elections are likely to be called if no government is formed by the end of next week.

A sharp surge of violence in Turkey and the more front-line role taken by the country in a U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group has increased pressure on the ruling party — which currently heads an interim government — to form a coalition alliance and end the political uncertainty.

Dozens have been killed in renewed clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels, while Turkish jets have conducted air raids on IS targets in Syria and Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq. U.S. jets on Wednesday launched their first airstrikes against IS targets in Syria from a key Turkish air base.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who founded the ruling party and remains influential, is reported to prefer new elections in the hopes that the party can win back its majority. Officials say the party's grassroots is also opposed to a coalition with the pro-secular party.

On Wednesday, Erdogan spoke of the need for a strong rule and said Davutoglu "would not commit suicide" if no coalition is formed.

Delegations from the ruling party and Kemal Kilicdaroglu's secular party have held a series of meetings in search of common grounds for a partnership despite their deep-seated rivalries. The sides said they reached consensus on many issues but news reports say differences remain on key issues, including foreign policy, education and the president's role.

Kilicdaroglu accused Erdogan earlier this month of obstructing the coalition efforts.