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Turkey Rules Out Unilateral Land Operation In Syria

  • RFE/RL

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says his country will not get involved in a unilateral land operation against Islamic State militants in northern Syria because such a move "is not a realistic approach."

Cavusoglu made the remarks on October 9 at a press conference in Ankara with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO and the United States are calling on Turkey to get more involved in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Cavusoglu said Turkey supports U.S.-led coalition air strikes against IS militants who are besieging the mostly Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria.

He also acknowledged that air strikes alone cannot defeat the militants and that "all options, including ground operations" must be considered -- despite Turkey's reluctance to launch a land operation on its own.

Cavusoglu said Ankara supports the idea of establishing a "safe zone and a no fly zone" in northern Syria along the Turkish border.

But Stoltenberg told reporters later on October 9 that the idea of setting up a no-fly zone or a safe zone inside Syria has "not been on the table of any NATO discussions yet and it's not an issue which is discussed in NATO."

Stoltenberg was also meeting on October 9 with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, and the Chief of Turkey's General Staff, General Necdet Ozel.

Meanwhile, Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, said any plan to set up a buffer zone in Syria would need to be approved by the UN Security Council.

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that the "unsanctioned" coalition air strikes would be used by Islamic extremists to "further fan the flames of radical opinion."

The comments on October 9 came as the U.S.-led coalition launched 13 strikes against Islamic State militants in and around Kobani in the previous 24 hours.

U.S. Central Command said all indications suggest the city near the border with Turkey remains under control of Kurdish militia.

But some reports from the border town on October 9 suggested IS militants had taken control of as much as a third of Kobani in street-to-street fighting overnight.

Syria's Kurdish fighters are the last line of defense against extremists who are trying to take over Kobani -- a move that would consolidate their control along the entire border of Turkey.

But Turkey has fought its own war for more than three decades against Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey and has been reluctant to join the fray.

Instead, Turkey has allowed Islamic State militants and Kurdish guerrillas to fight against each other for Kobani.

Turkish officials, meanwhile, said they were explaining their stance in the fight against IS militants to a delegation of U.S. officials that is visiting Ankara on October 9 and 10.

That delegation is led by retired U.S. General John Allen, the U.S. envoy who is working to coordinate efforts by the U.S.-led coalition against IS militants.

Ankara's refusal to send troops to help defend Kobani has sparked protests across Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, as well as in Istanbul and in Ankara. Kurds in Iraq have also held demonstrations.

WATCH: Iraqi Kurds Protest In Irbil Over The Plight Of Kobani

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on October 8 that at least 19 people have been killed, 145 wounded, and 368 arrested during violent protests about the issue across Turkey.

Davutoglu also vowed that Ankara's peace process with Turkey's Kurdish separatists would not be wrecked by what he described as "violent protests turned into vandalism and organized crimes."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP