France backs creating Syria-Turkey ‘safe zone’

Hollande tells Erdogan he backs plan that will help secure Turkey and provide a safe zone for refugees

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French President Francois Hollande backed on Wednesday the creation of a safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border to ensure Ankara’s security and hosts refugees fleeing the conflict between the U.S.-led coalition and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hollande "gave his support to the idea ... of creating a buffer zone between Syria and Turkey to host and protect displaced people," the French presidency said in a statement, reported Agence France Presse.

ISIS militants are battling Kurdish militia in Kobane - a town in northern Syria that borders Turkey - and while air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS have helped push back the militants, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town.

Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the ISIS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades.

Erdogan's proposal to establish the safe zone may however only be enforceable by deploying foreign troops on the ground, which coalition members such as France have so far ruled out.

According to the presidency statement, Hollande and Erdogan agreed that the moderate Syrian opposition fighting both ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad should be "helped more."

(With AFP)

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