World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey's priority is to establish a no-fly zone over Syrian air space and safe zones inside Syria to guarantee the security of Turkey's borders and to stop the massive refugee inflow from Syria, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.
Erdogan explained that the proposed measures to be taken in Syria and Iraq against the ISIL topped his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. At a press conference in Ankara, he added that the outcome of discussions on what role Turkey will take in the region will be addressed by the Turkish government.
"We cannot ignore the developments at our Syrian border. Around a million asylum-seekers are in our territories. This should come to a stop one way or another," Erdogan said.
The president wrapped up his discussions in the UN headquarters New York Thursday with a phone conversation with Obama and face-to-face talks with Biden.
"We cannot accept ISIL's actions, which have nothing to do with Islam. Our religion is the religion of unity, solidarity and peace," he said.
"We have to do our best as a Muslim country. We cannot be an onlooker while the Christian world takes such a step," he added.
Erdogan commented on the returned Turkish hostages who were held hostage by ISIL for 101 days, and said: "Our next steps will be preventing the repeat of such event and ensuring the safety of our borders."
Asked by Turkey's Hurriyet if Turkey might set up a secure zone for refugees in Syria on its own, Erdogan said: "That (should be done) with those in the region. By speaking to each one of them. Because we need to have a legitimacy within the international community.
"This is not only about Turkey but about 1.5 million people returning to their own land. To help settle these people are among the issues that are being discussed," he told the paper.
Turkish troops could be used to help set up a secure zone in Syria, if there was an international agreement to establish such a haven for refugees fleeing ISIL fighters, President Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published on Saturday.
Turkey has so far declined to take a frontline role in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State but officials said earlier this week Erdogan has been negotiating on what Turkey's role might now be.
"The logic that assumes Turkey would not take a position militarily is wrong," Erdogan said in an interview with the Hurriyet newspaper on his way back from New York, where he attended the United Nations General Assembly meetings.
Erdogan said negotiations are underway to determine how and by which countries the air strikes and a potential ground operation would be undertaken and that Turkey is ready to take part.
"In the distribution of responsibilities, every country will have a certain duty. Whatever is Turkey's role, Turkey will play it," he said, adding that an air operation alone was not sufficient.
"You can't finish off such a terrorist organisation only with air strikes. Ground forces are complementary ... You have to look at it as a whole. Obviously I'm not a soldier but the air (operations) are logistical. If there's no ground force, it would not be permanent," he said.
Turkey would defend its border if necessary, Erdogan said and added that the necessary steps would be taken once a parliamentary mandate that enables Turkish troops to conduct operations outside its borders would be passed next week.
"No one is responsible for protecting your borders," Erdogan said. "Will other people come and protect? We are the ones who will protect our own borders," he said.
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