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Turkey Says It Won't Enter Ground Battle Against IS Alone

by VOA News October 09, 2014

Turkish officials said they cannot be expected to conduct a ground operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria on their own.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that talks about Turkey's contributions to fighting the militants are ongoing but ruled out unilateral action.

'It's not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own,' he said. 'When we reach a joint agreement Turkey will do its utmost, but our strategy is explain to our allies the reality on the ground.'

Cavusoglu said any intervention would have to be part of a broader military action to create a buffer zone in Syria and a no-fly zone to protect it.

The Turkish government is also currently refusing to open its air bases for airstrikes against the militants. That stance, observers say, is causing concern and frustration in Washington.

Turkey is facing pressure to intervene in Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, a Syrian town just across the Turkish border where the IS group has been battling Kurdish fighters for weeks.

MPs authorize military action

Turkey's parliament has authorized military action in Syria and Iraq, but Turkish forces have not carried out any actions against the militants.

​​Stoltenberg, who is spending two days meeting with Turkey's political leadership, said the Islamic State group poses a threat to Syria, Iraq, Turkey and to NATO nations.

'So it is important that the whole international community stays united in this long-term effort. I welcome the decisive actions taken by the United States with many allies and partners and I welcome the recent vote in the Turkish parliament to authorize an even more active role of Turkey in the crisis,' Stoltenberg said.

He also promised NATO would support Turkey should IS militants launch a direct attack against it.

'NATO stands ready to support all allies in defending their security. For many decades Turkey has been a steadfast ally contributing to our collective defense and to the stability of the region,' said Stoltenberg.

He also said a no-fly zone or buffer zone in the region is not yet under consideration.

US officials in Turkey

Two U.S. officials - retired General John Allen and Ambassador Brett McGurk - are meeting Thursday and Friday with Turkish officials to push for help in combating the militants.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military says Kurdish militias in Kobani remain in control of 'most of the city' along the Syria-Turkey border, and are resisting a takeover by IS militants.

The assessment comes amid intensified U.S.-led airstrikes on IS targets in and around the city amid fears it could soon fall to the militants.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Islamic State fighters do control more than one-third of Kobani.

Australia joins fray

Also Thursday, Australia's military said its warplanes conducted their first airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq overnight.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stressed the need to help the Iraqi government battle militants who kill everyone who does not share their 'narrow, divisive and sectarian ideology.'

'This is a death cult that has declared war on the world. It's got nothing whatsoever to do with religion. It's got nothing whatsoever to do with the freedom of oppressed people. It is a group which has declared war on the world, which is killing without compunction,' said Abbott.

Australia is one of a group of countries that have joined the United States in carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State group, which it first began in August in Iraq before expanding last month into Syria.

Christian group freed

A Franciscan priest and 20 Christians abducted by a militant group in northern Syria earlier this week have been released.

Roman Catholic officials in Jerusalem confirmed that Father Hanna Jallouf was freed Thursday, four days after he and the parishioners were taken from the village of Knayeh near the Turkish border.

The church said the kidnappers were fighters linked to the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria.

A Franciscan spokeswoman tells AFP the other Christian captives were also released.

Dorian Jones contributed to this report from Istanbul.

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