US, Britain 'willing to examine' Turkey's 'safe haven' efforts for Syria, France voices support
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) answers a question next to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during their joint press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on Oct. 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOVFrench President François Hollande has voiced his support for a Turkish proposal to create “safe havens” in Syria for the protection of Syrian refugees, while the top diplomats of the United States and Britain said they are willing to "examine" the idea.
The office of the French Presidency announced its decision in written statement after a phone conversation between Hollande and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 8. “[Hollande] voiced his support for a proposal brought by President Erdoğan to create a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria for hosting and for the protection of the displaced persons,” read the statement issued by the Elysée Palace.
Separately, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Washington DC that "the buffer zone... is an idea that’s out there, it’s worth examining, it’s worth looking at very, very closely."
"We are at the stage of exploring this," agreed British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, adding "we’d have to explore with our other allies and partners what is meant by a buffer zone, how such a concept would work. But I certainly wouldn’t want to rule it out."
The Pentagon, on the other hand, said Oct. 8 that Turkey's proposed buffer zone "is not on the table now as a military option under consideration," the Associated Press reported.
'Deepening the cooperation' against ISIL
The conversation between Erdoğan and Hollande came two days before the foreign ministers of the two countries, Laurent Fabius and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, are scheduled to meet to deepen the cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The Elysée said the focal point of the phone exchange was to discuss the alarming situation in Kobane in northern Syria, currently besieged by ISIL jihadists. The two leaders underlined their agreement that providing assistance to moderate Syrian opposition groups was necessary in the fight against both ISIL and the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The statement added that Erdoğan cited Turkey’s assistance to nearly 200,000 people of Kobane who have had to flee ISIL violence, and stressed the importance of the Turkish Parliament’s approval of a motion allowing the Turkish army to conduct cross border operations into Iraq and Syria.
The two presidents also reportedly reviewed developments in Iraq following the formation of a new government, with Erdoğan emphasizing that Iraq “needs to build a new and inclusive army.”