Turkey says it 'can't lead' Syria ground operation alone
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before their meeting in Ankara on Oct. 9. AA PhotoTurkey said it cannot be expected to lead a ground operation against jihadists in Syria alone on Oct. 8, amid discussions on the establishment of a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border as has been advocated by Ankara.
"It's not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a news conference with visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
There has been increasing pressure on key NATO member Turkey to use its military weight against jihadists in Syria but Ankara has so far done nothing despite winning parliamentary authorization for action last week.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said U.S.-led air strikes would not be enough to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters in Kobane across the Syrian border, calling for a "coordinated ground operation." Erdoğan 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.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also suggested "putting boots on the ground" during an interview with CNN, but stressed that the strategy should also include "going after" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Çavusoglu said true peace can never be restored in Syria without the departure of "al-Assad and his regime."
He said the current U.S.-led air strikes against jihadists would not be enough to bring peace to Syria and a ground operation in coordination with anti-ISIL Syrian rebels should be considered.
"Air strikes could reverse the balance of power and stop IS, but will not be enough to clean the region of ISIL," Çavuşoğlu said.
"Therefore all other options, including a ground operation, should be considered and the Free Syrian Army should be supported," he said, referring to the anti-Assad rebel force.