Turkey’s president has promised to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and “other terrorist organisations”, in his clearest remarks yet that Turkish forces can join a US-led coalition battling the group in Iraq and Syria.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech on Wednesday comes a day before parliament votes on motions that may grant the government authority to send forces into both neighbouring countries.
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“We will fight effectively against both [ISIL] and all other terrorist organisations within the region,” said Erdogan as he opened the parliament’s autumn session. “This will always be our priority.”
Turkey is not a part of the US-led coalition, but has sent tanks to border areas threatened by ISIL advances towards Kobane, a Kurdish-majority Syrian border town known as Ain al-Arab in Arabic.
Erdogan’s AK party has a strong majority in parliament, increasing the chances of the motions being approved.
Ankara has not yet indicated what form its assistance could take although Erdogan has repeatedly called for a buffer zone on the Turkish border inside Syria, backed by a no-fly zone, to ensure security.
However the president, who has pushed for the removal of his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, said dropping “tonnes of bombs” on ISIL was not a long-term solution.
“We will continue to prioritise our aim to remove the Syrian regime, to help protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to encourage a constitutional, parliamentary government system which embraces all citizens,” he said.
“One of our priorities is to have a strong and just government in Damascus. We cannot be indecisive about the situation in the Gulf and the larger Middle East. How can we remain uninterested given the crisis on two fronts? We will not sit idle.”
“Turkey has no intention of intervening in any country’s internal affairs or grabbing any other country’s land. But peace and stability in the region means peace and stability in Turkey,” he added.
Erdogan also criticised claims of Turkish collusion with ISIL to hasten the demise of Assad. “It is out of the question to tolerate or to have the slightest sympathy … for such a terrorist group,” he said.