Britain has joined calls for Turkey to step in to help defeat “Islamic State” forces threatening a key town close to their border with Syria.
Amid fears that the lightly armed Kurdish defenders in Kobani – just inside Syria – could be overrun by IS fighters, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon urged the government in Ankara to become more involved.
“Turkey certainly could help. It is a matter for Turkey, but other allies in the region have been helping,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“This is a situation that can only be resolved, not just by America and Britain, but by the region itself so we’d certainly like to see Turkey more involved but in the end it is a decision for their government.”
There has been growing frustration among members of the US-led coalition being assembled against IS at the reluctance of Turkey to intervene, despite having forces positioned on the border.
Mr Fallon warned that if IS – also referred to as Isil (“Islamic State in Syria and the Levant”) – was not stopped, it would have severe consequences for the entire region.
“Clearly, every country in the region has got to see now what it can do to contribute to dealing with Isil otherwise we will have Iraq falling apart and Syria falling apart and that is a danger to the entire region,” he said.
With the US envoy, retired general John Allen, in Turkey for talks with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr Fallon indicated they could look favourably at Turkish calls for the establishment of a “buffer zone” along the border supported by a no-fly zone.
“It is something certainly that we will look at. We have had successful no-fly zones in the past, we have the air power to police it,” he said.
Following last month’s emergency Commons vote, Britain is currently conducting air strikes against IS forces in Iraq.
But while Mr Fallon acknowledeged that IS had to be defeated in both Iraq and Syria, Ministers did not believe that Parliament was yet ready to authorise the extension of military action into Syria.
“We don’t have authority from Parliament to operate in Syria at the moment. Our judgment at the moment is that Parliament wouldn’t give us that authority,” he said.
As US warplanes continued to pound IS positions around Kobani, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that air strikes alone would not defeat the militants – although he ruled out a unilateral Turkish ground attack.
“You need to take into consideration all options, including an operation on the ground,” he said following talks in Ankara with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg. “You cannot expect Turkey to do a land operation. This is not a realistic approach.”
Mr Cavusoglu warned that the violence would continue as long as the regime of President Bashar Assad – which Turkey bitterly opposes – remained in power in Syria.
An American aid worker threatened with beheading in Syria researched the region and knew the dangers, but believed the good he could accomplish through his relief organisation outweighed the risk, his friends have said.
Abdul-Rahman Kassig, 26, of Indianapolis, was helping victims of the Syrian civil war when he was captured on October 1 last year.