US, Turkey seek to establish Islamic State-free zone

AP News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2015 6:26 AM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The United States and Turkey are finalizing plans for a military campaign to push the Islamic State out of a strip of land along the Syrian border, deepening efforts to halt the extremists' advances.

A U.S. official said the creation of an "Islamic State-free zone" would ensure greater security and stability in the Turkish-Syrian border region. However, the official said any joint military efforts with Turkey would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone, a step Washington has long resisted despite Turkish requests.

The discussions come amid a major tactical shift in Turkey's approach to the Islamic State. After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes started striking militant targets in Syria last week, following a long-awaited agreement allowing the U.S. to launch its own strikes from the strategically located Incirlik Air Base.

The official insisted on anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the talks with Turkey.

Despite the U.S. and Turkey's shared interests in fighting the Islamic State, the Turks have also prioritized defeating Syrian President Bashar Assad. While the U.S. says Assad has lost legitimacy, it has not taken direct military action to try to remove him from office.

Turkey's new airstrike campaign also includes a second front targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The U.S. has relied on Syrian Kurdish fighters affiliated with the PKK to help make gains against the Islamic State.

Turkey accuses the PKK of not keeping pledges to withdraw armed fighters from its territory and disarm. The Turks are also concerned that gains made by Kurds in Iraq and in Syria could encourage its own minority to seek independence.