ANKARA: Turkey has no plans to intervene militarily in Syria anytime soon, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, refuting media speculation about an imminent operation to create a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.
“No one should expect that Turkey will go into Syria tomorrow or in the near future. It’s speculation,” Davutoglu told the private Kanal 7 broadcaster in an interview late Thursday.
While Turkey would “not wait for tomorrow” to act in Syria “in the event of a threat to domestic security” Davutoglu said a unilateral intervention was “out of the question” under the current conditions.
“We will never allow ourselves to be led down that road,” he said. “Our people can rest easy.”
Speculation has been swirling for days in Turkish media that the government is planning to intervene in Syria to push Islamic State jihadists back from the border and halt the advance of Kurdish forces who have made gains against the extremists in the area.
The Kurds’ advance has particularly alarmed Turkish officials, who accuse the Kurdish militiamen of seeking to unite Kurdish-majority areas of Syria and fear the growing power of Kurdish forces there will embolden Turkey’s 15-million strong Kurdish minority.
Turkey has over the last days significantly increased its military presence on the Syrian border, deploying tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, armoured combat vehicles and military personnel.
Speculation reached fever pitch late Thursday after Turkey dispatched additional troops along part of its border with Syria as fighting between Islamist-led groups and Syrian regime forces in the northern city of Aleppo intensified.
Turkey is one of the fiercest opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus and has taken in more than 1.8 million refugees since the war in Syria began.
Turkey has repeatedly called for the creation of a security zone inside Syria to protect its borders. But the idea has received lukewarm support from its Western allies.
Asked whether Turkey could create a “buffer zone” inside Syria, US ambassador to Turkey John Bass said that Washington and Ankara had a “shared concern” about the presence of IS in northern Syria.
“We are continuing to work together to address the threat that poses to both our countries as part of our joint effort,” he said at a reception in the Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday.
Early this week, the US State Department said it had no “solid evidence” that Turkey was seeking to establish a buffer zone in Syria, warning of “serious logistical challenges.”
Meanwhile Davutoglu announced on Friday that Vecdi Gonul, 75, a veteran politician from the conservative ruling party, was appointed as new defence minister.
Gonul was previously defence minister from 2002-2011. He replaces Ismet Yilmaz, who now serves as parliament speaker.