Report: Turkey Considering Invasion of Syria to Establish Buffer Zone

Military reportedly instructed to prepare to take 110-km long, 33-km deep buffer zone along border, to prevent ISIS and Kurdish advances.

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Turkish soldiers stand guard as people from the Syria, in the background, wait to cross into Turkey, June 26, 2015.
Turkish soldiers stand guard as people from the Syria, in the background, wait to cross into Turkey, June 26, 2015.Credit: AP

Turkey is holding a security meeting amid reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing for the creation of a buffer zone along the Turkish border with Syria.

Erdogan is chairing a regular National Security Council meeting on Monday, days after he vowed to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Syria following advances by Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State group militants.

The pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper said the military had been instructed to prepare to take a 110-kilometer long and 33-kilometer deep buffer along the Turkish border to prevent advances by both ISIS and the Kurds.

There has been no confirmation of the reports.

Turkey has unsuccessfully pressed the United States to enforce a safe area and a no-fly zone in Syria.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying that Turkey is prepared for any security threats along its borders. "If any harm is to come to Turkey's border security, if Turkey reaches the conclusion that this garden of peace is being threatened, it is prepared for any eventuality," Davutoglu said in comments broadcast late on Sunday.

"We will take the necessary measures to reduce the risks related to cross-border security."

Over the weekend Syrian Kurdish forces secured Kobani near the Turkish border, beating back Islamic State two days after the militants launched an attack.

Ankara has looked askance as the Syrian Kurds have made military advances against Islamic State, fearing the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state there that would further embolden Turkey's own 14 million Kurds.

The fighting prompted President Tayyip Erdogan to warn over the weekend that Turkey would "never allow" the formation of a Kurdish state along its southern borders. Erdogan is due to chair a regular meeting of the National Security Council later on Monday and his comments will be closely watched.

Turkey wants to construct more walls along its border with Syria to strengthen security against Islamic State militants and to crack down on illegal border crossings, senior officials told Reuters on Saturday.

The pro-government Star newspaper said on Monday a possible cross-border operation would be considered at the National Security Council meeting, citing unnamed sources.

Brokerage Finansbank said in a note to clients that given Turkey's current political uncertainty - Davutoglu's AK Party still needs to find a junior partner to form a government following its election setback this month - any intervention would likely be limited.

"We remain doubtful that a 'lame duck' government could undertake anything more than a 'targeted' operation that would be limited in both scale and scope," it said.

"However, following Erdogan's strong statement, the situation is clearly worth monitoring closely."

Later on Monday, the State Department said the United States has no "solid evidence" that Jordan and Turkey are considering seeking a buffer zone in Syria. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there were "serious logistical challenges" in creating such buffer zones but he had not seen any concrete evidence either Jordan or Turkey were considering such a zone.

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