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Turkey insists on no-fly zone in Syria, NATO non-committal

Associated Press Associated Press 9/09/2016 By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speak to the media after their talks in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Cavusoglu repeated a call for a no-fly zone over northern Syria that would boost security and allow more refugees to return home while enabling more local troops to be trained in their fight against Islamic State group fighters. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici) © The Associated Press NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speak to the media after their talks in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Cavusoglu repeated a call for a no-fly zone over northern Syria that would boost security and allow more refugees to return home while enabling more local troops to be trained in their fight against Islamic State group fighters. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ISTANBUL — Turkey's foreign minister on Friday repeated a call for a no-fly zone over northern Syria to boost security and allow more refugees to return home while enabling more local troops to be trained in their fight against Islamic State group fighters.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said newly trained local troops would be essential to retake territory from IS troops in places such as Raqqa and Mosul. He said a no-fly zone could be set up once an expanse of Syrian territory bordering Turkey — known as the Manbij pocket — is cleared of IS fighters. But he conceded that establishing a no-fly zone would require U.N. Security Council authorization.

"In order for the people to return home, ensuring ground safety alone would not be sufficient, it would need to be supported by a no-fly zone so that there are no attacks from the air," Cavusoglu told reporters after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg skirted a question whether NATO supports a no-fly zone. But he underscored that training local troops to take the fight to IS would be critical instead of the alliance having to deploy any large military contingent.

"I believe the key is to train local forces," Stoltenberg said, calling it the better long-run option. He said NATO supports the international coalition against IS through air surveillance, augmenting Turkey's air defense missile systems, and a naval presence.

Cavusoglu added that success in retaking the northern Syrian city of Jarablus has lifted morale among locals and emboldened fighters in Raqqa and Mosul.

However, he said newly trained local forces would not be permitted to furtively support Syrian Kurdish forces that Turkey believes are allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party — or PKK — that's waging an insurgency inside the country.

Turkey launched an incursion into Syria last month to back Syrian rebels in their fight to push IS out of the town of Jarablus and to limit the Syrian Kurdish forces' advance west of the Euphrates River.

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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed.

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