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Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

  • VOA News

FILE - A Turkish soldier stands guard while smoke rises in the Syrian town of Kobani as it is seen from the Turkish border town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 26, 2015.

FILE - A Turkish soldier stands guard while smoke rises in the Syrian town of Kobani as it is seen from the Turkish border town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 26, 2015.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to push ahead with his campaign against Islamic State militants and Kurdish rebels in Syria and Iraq, as NATO held an emergency meeting to discuss the issue Tuesday.

"No steps back will be taken in our fight against terrorism," said Erdogan at a news conference at an airport in Ankara before leaving on an official visit to China. "This is a process and it will continue with the same determination."

Erdogan also expressed confidence the "necessary steps" will be taken by NATO leaders, who began a meeting Tuesday at the request of Turkey to discuss the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking ahead of the closed-door session, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed condolences for the recent deadly attacks near Turkey's southern border with Syria.

"NATO is following developments very closely and we stand in strong solidarity with our allow Turkey," said Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Ankara requested the meeting under Article 4 of NATO's founding treaty, which allows countries to ask for consultations when they believe their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened. It is only the fifth meeting of its kind since the alliance's founding in 1949.

On Monday, the U.S. said it is working with Turkey on an attack plan to clear Islamic State insurgents from northern Syria, a campaign that would escalate Ankara's involvement in the fight against militants in the region.

A U.S. official told news agencies the goal is to create an "Islamic State-free zone" to "ensure greater security along Turkey's border with Syria." But the official said the joint U.S.-Turkey military operation would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone in the region, a long-standing Turkish demand.

The U.S. fears that creation of a no-fly zone to halt Syrian government air raids in the region would draw American forces deeper into the four-year fight that several groups are waging to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

After months of reluctance, Turkey last week launched attacks on militant targets across its border into Syria after a suicide attack in Turkey killed 32 people and a car bomb killed two Turkish soldiers. Ankara also agreed for the first time to let the U.S. use its Incirlik air base for airstrikes on the insurgents, sharply cutting the distance for U.S. fighter jets that had been traveling from Iraqi air fields for attacks on Islamic State targets in northern Syria.

However, Turkey's aerial attack to push Islamic State fighters out of its long boundary with Syria is likely to complicate fighting on the ground, where Syrian Kurds are among the most effective forces battling extremists in Syria and Iraq. But Ankara fears they could boost a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.

The U.S. is backing Turkey's two-pronged air offensive and artillery strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq.

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