Turkish opposition leader warns against intervention in Syria

The reports come as the AK Party he formed seeks to re-establish its authority after losing its overall majority in elections

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Turkey’s main opposition party leader warned on Tuesday any military intervention in Syria would spell disaster for Turkey and in comments clearly aimed at President Tayyip Erdogan said the country could not be “a plaything for your ambition”.

Turkish newspapers have carried reports Erdogan is considering creation of a buffer zone across the border, where Kurdish militia and Islamist militants vie for control.

The reports come as the AK Party he formed seeks to re-establish its authority after losing its overall majority in June 7 elections.

Erdogan chaired a meeting on Monday of the National Security Council, which voiced concern about a ‘terrorism’ threat from across the border. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke of measures by NATO member Turkey to tackle security threats.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu warned against military action while coalition talks proceed.

“Even before a government has been established, the drums of war are being beaten for vested interests. War is not a child’s game nor a vehicle to renew one’s image,” Kilicdaroglu wrote on his official Twitter account.

“A good politician knows that feeding off chaos and war will bring disaster instead of success. This country is not a plaything for your ambition,” he said.

A grand coalition between the AK Party and Kilicdaroglu’s CHP is seen as a possible option, though the CHP has made clear it would not back Erdogan’s ambition to change the constitution and create for him the powerful executive presidency he envisaged when he surrendered the post of prime minister.

Critics of Erdogan believe he would prefer to allow coalition talks to fail and call new elections in the hope a population wary of political paralysis or chaos would restore the AK Party’s majority in full. Erdogan denies such notions.

U.S. reaction

Speculation about possible military moves grew after Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would never allow the formation of a Kurdish state along its southern borders.

Syrian Kurdish forces have made military advances against Islamic State militants with Ankara fearing the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state in Syrian territory that would further embolden Turkey’s own 14 million Kurds.

Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist close to the government, wrote in the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper on Tuesday that Turkey was set to create a buffer zone in Syria 110 km (70 miles) long and 33 km deep in the Jarablus region, which is currently under control of Islamic State, also known as ISIL.

“Are we going to war with Syria? No. Are we going to war with ISIL? No. Are we going into Syria? Yes, probably. So what will we do? Establish a buffer zone,” he said.

Artillery from within Turkey’s borders will aim to secure control, but the deployment of military units within Syria is also envisaged, he said.

He said the military was seeking a written directive for such a deployment and that Davutoglu was getting it prepared.

Turkey kept limited army contingents in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War put the area beyond Baghdad’s control. But the generals are widely reported to be reluctant to launch any widescale operations on Syrian soil.

Stripped of their political influence during Erdogan’s years in power, they are ill inclined to make any public comment.

Selvi said Ankara was also conducting diplomatic efforts related to its plans, raising the question of what the reaction from Washington would be.

The State Department said on Monday there were “serious logistical challenges” in creating such buffer zones, but that it had not seen any concrete evidence Turkey was considering such a move.