Turkey's President Says Ground Operation Necessary to Counter Islamic State
MOSCOW/ANKARA, October 7 (RIA Novosti) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized Western countries on Tuesday for their policy of non-interference in Syria and Iraq, stressing that airstrikes without a ground operation will not stop the advance of the Islamic State (IS) militants.
'It is impossible to eradicate terrorism only by performing airstrikes. We need cooperation in terms of a ground operation,' Erdogan said at the Syrian refugee camp Islahiye near Gaziantep Province in southeastern Turkey.
To solve the Syrian crisis, Erdogan suggests to establish a no-fly zone and a buffer zone, as well as to support Syria's opposition. The president reiterated Turkey's readiness to defend their shrine in northern Syria - the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the ancestor of Ottoman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
Erdogan said that about 1.5 million refugees from different countries, mainly from Syria, are currently staying in Turkey. The government has provided more than $4 billion for their support.
'You will never be a burden to us. We helped and will help you, while the West only observes. All they do is talk, when measures need to be taken – they are nowhere to be seen. Europe has received only 130.000 refugees and then closed the borders. The western countries have granted us only about $200 million to assist the refugees; Turkey has allocated the rest from its own budget,' Erdogan said.
The IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, the group extended its attacks to northern and western Iraq, declaring a caliphate on the territories over which it had control. Thousands of people, mostly religious minorities, were forced to flee fearing being captured, tortured or killed.
Following the group's advance, the United States and its allies launched airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria and promised to stir up military aid for Iraqi, Kurdish and 'moderate' Syrian opposition forces.
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