ISTANBUL: Turkey will not send ground troops into neighbouring Syria where it has been bombing Islamic State positions, a campaign that could “change the balance” in the region, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying on Monday.
“We will not send ground forces,” Davutoglu told a group of Turkish newspaper editors according to the Hurriyet daily.
“We do not want to see Daesh on our border,” Davutoglu said using an Arabic acronym for the IS militants, the Hurriyet daily quoted him as saying.
Turkey has launched a two-pronged “anti-terror” cross-border offensive against militants and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after a wave of violence in the country, pounding their positions with air strikes and artillery.
The Turkish military on Sunday launched new strikes on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq as Ankara called a meeting of the NATO military alliance over its campaign against the PKK separatists and IS militants.
Davutoglu said Turkish strikes against IS and PKK militants in Iraq and Syria would “change the balance” in the region.
Turkey has given a green-light to the United States on the use of a key air base near Syria for bombings against IS targets.
The landmark deal to use Incirlik air base in southern Turkey comes after months of tough negotiations between Turkish and US officials.
Davutoglu declined to provide details of the agreement but said the concerns of Ankara, which had been pressing for a no-fly zone, were addressed “to a certain extent.”
“Air cover is important, the air protection for the Free Syrian Army and other moderate elements fighting Daesh,” said Davutoglu.
“If we will not send ground forces — and that we will not do — then certain elements that cooperate with us on the ground must be protected.”