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Turkey Vows 'Safe Zone' On Syrian Border; U.S. Says No Deal

  • RFE/RL

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says his country is determined to set up a safe zone just across the border in northern Syria where civilians would be safe from attack by either Syrian government forces or Islamic State (IS) militants.

Davutolglu told the BBC late on August 11 that the safe zone would be protected by “moderate” Syrian opposition groups rather than Turkish troops.

But he said Turkey would use military force if it was threatened.

Earlier on August 11, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the United States and Turkey had agreed to create a safe zone -- 98 kilometers long and 45 kilometers wide -- that would be patrolled by members of the opposition Free Syrian Army.

The area is the last strip of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border that is under the control of IS militants.

But U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: "There's no agreement on some kind of zone."

Toner said Washington has been “clear from the podium and elsewhere saying there's no zone, no safe haven. We're not talking about that here. What we're talking about is a sustained effort to drive [IS militants] out of the region]."

Kurdish political leaders in Turkey say the “safe zone” is an attempt by Ankara to stop Kurds in northern Syria from forming their own territory along the Turkish border.

They note that since Turkey announced it would attack both IS militants and the PKK Kurdish rebels who are helping Kurds in northern Syria to fight the IS group, only a few air strikes have targeted IS militants, but more than 400 air strikes have targeted PKK fighters.

With reporting by Reuters, BBC, and CNN Turk