Last updated: 1 October, 2014

Turkey pushes for more than dropping “tons of bombs” on IS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed the West on Wednesday to find a long-term solution to the crises in Syria and Iraq, saying dropping “tons of bombs” on Islamic State militants would only provide temporary respite.

Erdogan has pushed for the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the Syria crisis to settle the conflict and said that international action had to go well beyond air strikes.

“Dropping tons of bombs from the air is only a temporary solution and only delays the threats and the danger,” Erdogan told parliament in a keynote address on the opening day of its new session.

“The world should know that Turkey is not a country that will allow itself to be used in the search for a palliative solution,” he added.

Erdogan’s comments came a day ahead of a debate in parliament when the government will seek authorisation for military action by Turkish armed forces in the Syria and Iraq crises.

After months of reticence in the fight against IS that exasperated the West, Turkey has now shifted its policy and indicated it is willing to join the international coalition.

Ankara has not yet indicated what form its assistance could take although Erdogan has repeatedly called for a buffer zone on the Turkish border inside Syria — backed by a no-fly zone — to ensure security.

“Turkey has no intention of intervening in any country’s internal affairs or grabbing any other country’s land,” Erdogan told parliament.

“But peace and stability in the region means peace and stability in Turkey,” he added.

– Parliament urged to back measures –

According to the Hurriyet daily, quoting sources in Turkey’s central command, the request seeks permission from parliament for the presence and transit of foreign soldiers in Turkish territory and deployment of Turkish military forces to Iraq or Syria.

The armed forces want to allow Turkey’s allies the use of Turkish bases for humanitarian aid and logistical support, including the Incirlik air base which the US is keen to use for sorties against IS, it said.

But is for the government to determine the terms and conditions under which the bases, including Incirlik, can be used, Hurriyet said.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a strong majority in parliament but Erdogan called on the opposition to also vote for the mandate.

“Parties in parliament should take this into consideration when voting for the mandate,” Erdogan said.

“Remaining silent means betraying our history.”

Turkey has been accused of playing a role in the growth of IS with its past support of Islamist Syrian groups in the hope they would aid the ousting of Assad.

But Erdogan angrily lashed out at suggestions of collusion between Turkey and IS.

“It is out of the question to tolerate or to have the slightest sympathy on our territory, region or planet for such a terrorist group,” he said.

Ankara has previously justified its low-key role in the fight against IS by saying its hands were tied by concerns over the fate of dozens of Turkish hostages abducted by IS in Iraq.

But those hostages were freed September 20, prompting what Erdogan has acknowledged as a major change in Turkish policy.