Turkey ready to send ground troops to Syria 'if necessary': PM

AFP , Wednesday 4 May 2016

Turkey is ready to send ground troops into Syria if necessary, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday, after weeks of deadly rocket strikes on a Turkish region from jihadists across the border.

"If it becomes necessary then we will send the ground forces," Davutoglu told Al-Jazeera television in an interview, when asked if Turkey was mulling sending troops to Syria.

"We are ready to take all measures that we need, both inside Turkey and outside, to provide for our own security," he added, according to a transcript published on Al-Jazeera's Turkish website.

The Turkish border region of Kilis -- which lies opposite areas controlled by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria -- has been battered since January by rocket fire from the other side of the border which has claimed 20 lives.

Turkey has hit back with artillery fire of its own against IS but has always stopped short of making any firm commitment to send its troops over the border.

Drones from the US-led international coalition fighting IS have also taken off from Turkey's Incirlik base in the south of the country for bombing raids against IS targets.

Asked if Turkey could act unilaterally against IS, Davutoglu said Turkey had a right to self-defence against IS based on UN resolutions.

"But we still prefer an international consensus. As IS is an issue that concerns the whole world," he added.

Turkey has in the past repeatedly said it is open to a ground operation in Syria but wanted to move in cooperation with its Western and Gulf allies.

Turkey's NATO allies have sometimes lamented that Ankara could do more in the fight against IS but Turkey appears to have stepped up efforts in the last weeks after a string of attacks on its soil.

In the latest violence, a car bomb Sunday blamed on an IS-affiliated militant killed at least two policemen and wounded 22 people in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, a major refugee hub near the Syrian border.

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