Turkey ready for anti-ISIL role, hints at ground forces

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Turkey ready for anti-ISIL role, hints at ground forces

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country needs to take a frontline role in the fightback against ISIL militants in Syria.

Until now Ankara has declined a role in the international coalition, which has frustrated the West.

But admitting that Turkey “can’t stay out” of the counteroffensive, Erdogan also warned that airstrikes wouldn’t be enough to “finish off” the militants, hinting that ground forces could be mobilised.

“We will hold talks with our institutions this week and then take the position that we need to. We will definitely give our support. We cannot remain out of this,” he said.

Erdogan’s position appeared to change following meetings in Washington last week and as the advance of the group which calls itself Islamic State reached a few kilometres from the Turkish border.

Hundreds of Turkish Kurds are still being prevented from crossing into Syria to take part in the battles so instead they watch and cheer from the Turkish side as Kurdish shells strike ISIL positions in the distance.

Turkey is faced with a new refugee crisis of as many as 160,000 mainly Syrian Kurds.

The United Nations predicts that close to double that number could be displaced by the latest fighting in Kobani.

As Turkey prepares to join the anti-ISIL coalition, it needs to strike a delicate balance between helping Kurdish forces tackle the militants, while not aiding its own Kurdish separatist movement, the PKK.