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Turkey says priority to establish Syria safe zones

Turkish president calls for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria and a safe haven for civilians on the Syrian side of the border
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 24 September, 2014 (AA)

Turkey's priority is to establish a no-fly zone over Syrian air space and safe zones inside Syria to guarantee the security of Turkey's borders and to stop the massive refugee inflow from Syria, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday.

Erdogan explained that the proposed measures to be taken in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State (IS), topped his talks with US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. At a press conference in Ankara, he added that the outcome of discussions on what role Turkey will take in the region will be addressed by the Turkish government. 

"We cannot ignore the developments at our Syrian border. Around one million asylum-seekers are in our territories. This should come to a stop one way or another," Erdogan said. 

The president wrapped up his discussions in the UN headquarters New York Thursday with a phone conversation with Obama and face-to-face talks with Biden.

"We cannot accept ISIL's actions, which have nothing to do with Islam. Our religion is the religion of unity, solidarity and peace," he said.

"We have to do our best as a Muslim country. We cannot be an onlooker while the Christian world takes such a step," he added.

Erdogan commented on the returned Turkish hostages who were held hostage by IS for 101 days, and said: "Our next steps will be preventing the repeat of such event and ensuring the safety of our borders."

"Three things are of the utmost importance. Firstly, the formation of a no-fly zone. Secondly, the formation of a safe haven on the Syrian side and preparation for its organization and administration, and thirdly we will discuss which actors will manage this process," Erdogan said.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey's calls for international efforts to stop the humanitarian tragedy in Syria fell on deaf ears since the beginning of the almost four-year conflict. 

"Four years ago, there were no such groups. At that time, ISIL had recently splintered from al-Qaeda, and it strengthened itself in Syria."

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