Erdogan vows to take on ISIL fighters
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made his clearest remarks on the possibility of his military forces engaging with armed groups in Iraq and Syria, a day ahead of a parliamentary vote that may grant the government authority to do so.
Delivering a keynote speech in the opening of parliament’s new session on Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “We will fight effectively against both (Islamic State) and all other terrorist organisations within the region; this will always be our priority.”
Turkey has not yet joined the US-led coalition staging air war on fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), who have captured large areas of northern Syria and Iraq.
But with Turkish tanks stationed along borders with Syria which ISIL advances towards, Ankara seems braced to join. Parliament is due to vote on Thursday on two motions submitted by the government to allow military action by Turkish forces in war-stricken Syria and Iraq.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) 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.
Erdogan, who has pushed for the ousting of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the crisis, said dropping “tons of bombs” on ISIL serves as a temporary respite for the crises in Iraq and Syria, urging the West to find long-term solutions.
“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 (of its) 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 on border. We will not sit idle,” Erdogan said.
Turkey has been accused of playing a role in the growth of ISIL with its past support of Islamist Syrian groups in the hope they would aid the ousting of Assad.
But Erdogan angrily lashed out at suggestions of collusion between Turkey and ISIL. “It is out of the question to tolerate or to have the slightest sympathy on our territory, region or planet for such a terrorist group,” he said.
“Turkey has no intention of intervening in any country’s internal affairs or grabbing any other country’s land,” Erdogan told parliament. “But peace and stability in the region means peace and stability in Turkey,” he added.