February 21, 2016 12:14 pm
Updated: February 21, 2016 12:49 pm

Turkey could join a coalition ground force in Syria, says ambassador

Turkey's Ambassador to Canada, Selçuk Ünal, tells Tom Clark if there are no boots on the ground in Syria, his country wants a safe zone inside the Syrian border protected by allies from the air to give refugees safe haven.


Turkey wold consider joining a coalition ground force moving into Syria to fight the so-called Islamic State, says that country’s ambassador to Canada.

In an interview with The West Block’s Tom Clark, Selçuk Ünal said his country would consider participating in a ground offensive if it comes to that, but in the absence of boots on the ground in Syria, his government wants to see a safe zone established where civilians could seek safety from aerial bombardment.

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“We need to have a safe zone which is protected from the air as we have done in the past in Iraq, in Northern Iraq, in Kosovo, in Libya,” the ambassador said.

With such an area in place, the international community could extend humanitarian assistance to people in Syria and potentially halt the tide of refugees fleeing the country, Ünal noted.

The ambassador also said that his country will not criticize Canada’s decision to pull out of the bombing campaign and increase humanitarian and training efforts on the ground.

“Every country is entitled to its own decision … I believe every country has a part that they can play.”

As part of Canada’s refocused mission, the Liberal government has confirmed that it will supply small arms to Kurdish soldiers fighting against the so-called Islamic State. Ünal acknowledged that this is cause for concern for his government, as those same Kurdish populations have long sought to establish a sovereign nation apart from Turkey and neighbouring Iraq.

“Our general expectation from everybody, from our allies and partners to ensure that whatever given to any group on the ground should not be transferred to any terror organizations, first and foremost (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and the (Democratic Union Party), because they could be used back in our territory. So that’s our general stance.”


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