Saying his country will do “whatever is needed” to help fight the extremist group ISIS, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he has reached what local media are calling “a point of determination.”
That’s according to a news briefing Erdogan gave to reporters on his way home from the U.N. General Assembly. Turkey’s border with Syria has been flooded with refugees; U.S.-led air strikes continue to hit ISIS forces laying siege to a nearby Kurdish town this weekend.
From Istanbul, NPR’s Deborah Amos reports:
“Turkey is ready to join a possible ground operation against ISIS, said the president. Once a reluctant partner, his remarks follow meetings with U.S. officials in New York. Turkey’s parliament will vote later this week to authorize cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq.
“Turkey has been pushing for a no-fly zone to protect a buffer zone in northern Syria. For the first time, U.S. officials said they are open to the plan.
“Refugees from the Syrian crisis have overwhelmed Turkey — 1.5 million of them, according to the Turkish president. In recent days, more than 150,000 Syrian Kurds – and 40,000 Iraqi Yazidis have added to the burden.”
In addition to a no-fly zone, Turkey has also been pushing to provide training and equipment to Syrian rebels.
Discussing the U.S. air strikes on ISIS, Erdogan said they had prevented all of northern Iraq, including Kurdish-controlled areas and crucial hydroelectric dams, from falling into the extremist group’s hands. He added that the recent operation has also kept ISIS from taking over Kobani, the town where U.S. Central Command says it carried out air strikes this weekend, with the help of coalition partners.
Erdogan’s remarks came roughly a week after dozens of Turkish hostages were freed from captivity after being held by ISIS for more than 100 days. That hostage situation had been seen as complicating any attempt by Turkey to fight ISIS directly.