US, UK diplomats consider buffer zone for Turkey

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2014 1:14 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top diplomats from the U.S. and Britain said Wednesday they would consider supporting a buffer zone inside Syria to help protect Turkey's borders, but a Pentagon spokesman said that is not an option that is currently on the table.

Still, asked about a buffer zone after an hour-long meeting in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry British and visiting British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond both stopped short of embracing one.

The issue comes as the U.S. is prodding Ankara to ramp up action against the Islamic State militant group, which is closing in on the Syrian town of Kobani that sits on Turkey's border. Separately, French President Francois Hollande announced his support for a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria to take in and protect refugees, according to a statement released by his office in Paris.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long called for the creation of a buffer zone inside Syria, as well as a no-fly zone to secure Turkey's borders and stem the flow of refugees.

But the Pentagon has maintained that doing so would be costly and controversial.

Both Kerry and Hammond told reporters that the concept of a buffer zone would need to be carefully examined, including with other nations, to see how it would work.

"But I certainly wouldn't want to rule it out at this stage," Hammond said.

Kerry said the issue would be raised later this week at a meeting of U.S. officials and Turkish leaders. "It's worth examining. It's worth looking at very, very closely," Kerry said.

The siege on Kobani remains a top concern for both the U.S. and Turkey, Kerry said, noting that American airstrikes have targeted militants nearing the border town.

At the Pentagon, U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that a buffer zone "is now not on the table as a military option that we're considering."

"That said, it's a topic of continued discussion," Kirby said.

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Cairo contributed to this report.

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