Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey’s military is working on plans to establish a “buffer zone” against Islamic militants, on the country’s borders with Iraq and Syria, Turkish media reports said Tuesday.
Erdogan also told a group of journalists on board his plane during his return from a visit to Qatar late Monday that Turkey could take in leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who have been asked to leave Qatar.
Asked about the possibility of a buffer zone on Turkey’s southern borders, Hurriyet newspaper and other media quoted Erdogan as saying: “The armed forces are working (on plans). They will bring them to us. We will decide if it is necessary.”
Erdogan did not say which side of the borders any buffer zone would be established or what it would entail.
NATO member Turkey has not committed to an alliance coalition announced this month to take on the Islamic State group — which is holding 49 Turks, including diplomats, hostage. It has told allies that it will stay quietly behind the scenes.
Erdogan also told reporters that Turkey could provide refuge to Muslim Brotherhood leaders now being forced to leave Qatar.
The leaders had sought refuge in Qatar following the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the crackdown on his supporters. But their presence in Qatar had severely strained Doha’s relations with Egypt as well as with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all of which view the more than 85-year-old Islamist movement as a threat.
Turkey had forged a close alliance with Morsi and strongly criticized the military coup in Egypt which ousted his government.