Erdoğan signals flexibility for anti-ISIL coalition

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has indicated possible flexibility regarding Turkey’s stance in its contribution to the coalition against the jihadi Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“We’ll make a decision after having extensive discussions with the coalition forces about the next road map,” Erdoğan said on Sept. 21 at a press conference before departing for the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

He added that the Turkish hostages who had been held by ISIL forces were one of the reasons why Ankara had declined to sign a joint communique in Jeddah pledging combat support in the international anti-ISIL coalition.

“We said we could only give logistical support and humanitarian assistance within this framework. The issue about the next process is a different matter,” Erdoğan said, adding that he had a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in the morning about the issue.

“I told them to make their studies. In the meantime, we’ll have discussions in the U.N.,” he said, adding that the government would make its decision on Turkey’s stance regarding its contribution to the anti-ISIL coalition after making these consultations.

“It’s time to determine our stance,” Erdoğan said.

A meeting between the Turkish president and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly is unlikely, but he did say that he would meet with Vice President Joe Biden, who is responsible for the Iraq file.

Stressing the need for buffer zone “in Syria near Turkish border,” Erdoğan said he had raised the issue during talks at the recent NATO summit, including during his meeting with Obama. The Turkish Armed Forces are studying the issue with their relevant counterparts, including the U.S., he added.

Touching on the thousands of Syrian Kurds who have crossed into Turkey, fleeing from ISIL violence in northern Syria, Erdoğan described it as “a major problem, a mass influx.”

He stressed that Turkey could not and would not abandon any Syrians under bombardments, noting that all Syrians, “including Arabs, Kurds and Yazidis” are fleeing to Turkey. “We do not make any ethnic or sectarian discrimination” he said.

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