Ground operation in Syria ‘not realistic’, says Turkey
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Turkey could not be expected to lead a unilateral cross-border ground operation into Syria, said Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday.
Amid mounting international pressure on key NATO member Turkey for a military intervention against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had no intention of sending ground troops across the border without outside help.
"It's not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own," said Cavusoglu. "We are holding talks. Once there is a common decision, Turkey will not hold back from playing its part."
The Turkish foreign minister was speaking to reporters in Ankara after holding talks with visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
In his remarks to the press, Stoltenberg said the question of a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria had not been discussed by NATO member countries.
Safe zone required
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said a safe zone for refugees, backed up by a no-fly zone, must be created inside Syria if Ankara is to consider military action there.
"We discussed this issue today during our meeting here," said Stoltenberg. "It has not been on the table of any NATO discussions yet and it is not an issue which is discussed in NATO," he added.
Some NATO member countries such as France have already voiced their support for a buffer zone.
Amid mounting international criticism of Turkey’s failure to intervene in the fight for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian border town the anti-IS, Stoltenberg appeared to be wary of adding to the public pressure, saying that IS jihadists posed "a great threat for the Iraqi people, the Syrian people and the region in general."
"It's important to stand in solidarity," he added, saying NATO welcomed the Turkish parliament's vote last week that gave authorisation for military action.
"NATO stands ready to support all allies in facing threats," he said.
IS group controls ‘a third’ of Kobane
Stoltenberg’s visit to Turkey came as a Syrian activist group on Thursday said IS militants now control a third of the symbolic Kurdish town of Kobane.
The coalition carried out two fresh strikes on the town early Thursday, according to the AFP, as it continued a flurry of bombing raids on IS positions in and around the town.
Nearly 20 coalition bombing raids have hit near Kobane since Tuesday, but Washington has said air strikes alone would not be enough to save it.
Fierce street battles have been raging in Kobane since the jihadists breached its defences earlier this week.
IS fighters pulled out of some areas on Wednesday but have since renewed their offensive and seized more ground, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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