Ankara: Turkey`s military is mulling the prospect of establishing a buffer zone along its border with Syria and Iraq amid an escalating threat posed by Islamic State extremists, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
"The TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) are working on plans and will present them to us and we will decide if it is necessary," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper and other media, when asked about the possibility of a buffer zone being established.
A government official confirmed that Turkey was devising plans for a buffer zone along the volatile border.
"The general staff is carrying out inspections whether a buffer zone could be viable but there is nothing concrete yet," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Turkey, a NATO member and Washington`s key ally in the region, has been reluctant to take part in combat operations against Islamic State militants, or allow a US-led coalition to use its airbases for strikes against the jihadists because the extremists are holding dozens of Turkish nationals hostage, including diplomats and children.
IS militants are holding 49 Turks in all, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq in June.
Last week, a senior Turkish official told AFP: "Our hands and arms are tied because of the hostages," adding that Turkey`s role in the anti-IS coalition would be confined to humanitarian assistance.
Erdogan said Turkey wanted to solve the hostage crisis through "contacts."
"Our intelligence units have been working for three months on this," he said, adding that "We will provide every kind of humanitarian support (in the coalition against IS)."
The official said the move to establish a buffer zone come amid rising concerns in Turkey, which is currently hosting more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, would not be able to cope with many more.
"Our biggest concern now is another influx of refugees. We are already hosting more than 1.5 million Syrians and cannot bear another wave of this magnitude," the official told AFP.
"We are weighing plans for a buffer zone for entirely humanitarian purposes, in order to help people on the other side of the border," the official said.