US and some allies considering buffer zone between Syria and Turkey

The U.S. and the UK say they are willing to look at the possibility of creating a "buffer zone" between Syria and Turkey. Meanwhile the Islamic State is continuing its assault on the border town of Kobane with fighting now taking place within the town .

John Kerry, US Secretary of State said: "The buffer zone... is an idea that's out there, it's worth examining, it's worth looking at very, very closely," He said that the millions of refugees who had fled Syria "should not be a problem which is thrust onto Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, where they bear an incredible burden." Kerry's remarks suggest not just a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria but between Lebanon and Syria, and Jordan and Syria as well. Kerry continued: "If Syrian citizens can return to Syria and be protected in an area across the border, there's a lot that would commend that. You'd have to guarantee safety, that there wouldn't be attacks by the government... so it needs a thorough examination. We're all in favour of looking at this very closely."
 The White House and also the US Department of Defense both claimed that a buffer zone was not a military option being considered at present. However, they did admit that the possibility was being discussed with Turkey:President Barack Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, said "it's not something that is under consideration right now", while Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the buffer zone is "a topic of continued discussions". The idea of a buffer zone was first suggested by the the Turkish president Recep Erdogan and is also supported by France. The US has consistently refused to consider establishing a safe haven or buffer zone for Syrians fleeing the conflict. The US argues that it would be too difficult to set up and even more problematic to patrol, particularly since the US is unwilling to commit ground troops to the conflict.
 Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that US air strikes on Kobane have killed at least 45 Islamic State fighters since this Monday and forced them to partially withdraw from several streets they had occupied. The continuing onslaught is reported to have already killed more than 400 people. About 200,000 Syrians fled to shelter in Turkey exacerbating the humanitarian situation there.
 US officials travelled to Turkey to discuss the role of Turkey in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State. The issue of a buffer zone will be discussed at those meetings. The Turks have argued in favor of such a zone for several years already as they believe such a zone would help them deal with their huge refugee problems. Kerry's recent statements may indicate that the US may be considering changing their position on the issue which up to now has rejected a buffer zone. UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also said of the buffer zone idea that he "certainly wouldn't want to rule it out." No details of such a zone were discussed by the UK or US. Turkey has requested a "no-fly zone" that would keep some of the territory bordering on Turkey from being attacked or bombed by the Assad regime's air force. This plan has zero relevance to the issue of the Islamic State attacks near the border, actions that at present are the prime source of the huge flow of refugees into Turkey.
Retired Marine General John Allen, who is the US special envoy in the fight against the Islamic State is to travel to Turkey on Thursday to see if Turkey will now take part in the fight against the Islamic State. The buffer zone idea will be part of his discussions with Turkish officials. Rear Admiral John Kirby press secretary at the Pentagon said that the US and Turkey have discussed the buffer zone proposal many times already but said: “It is now not on the table as a military option we are considering. That said, it is a topic of continuing discussion.”
 The US administration appears to be of two minds on the issue with Kerry appearing to support the idea but others noting that it is not now being considered as a military option. Kerry also seems to be lining up allies such as the UK and France to support the idea along with Turkey. The French President Francois Hollande issued a statement indicating his support for a buffer zone between Syria and Turkey to take in and protect refugees. Both Kerry and Hammond said that any buffer zone proposal would need to be carefully examined especially with other nations. They did not mention the Syrian regime ruled by Assad. As the appended video from two years ago shows, rebels themselves have tried to set up buffer zones to protect refugees.


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