Turkey agrees plan for ‘Isis-free zone’ along Syrian border


Turkey and the US have agreed on the outlines of a plan to drive Islamic State out of a strip of land along the Turkish-Syrian border, according to reports, in a landmark deal that will draw Turkey further into Syria’s civil war and looks likely to increase the intensity of the US air war against Isis.

The agreement to create an “Islamic State-free zone”, as officials are calling it, comes days after a wave of violence linked to the Syrian conflict prompted Turkey, a Nato member, to launch air strikes for the first time against Isis and allow a coalition led by the US to use its airbases to bomb militant targets in Syria.

It is a diplomatic victory for Turkey, which has long demanded the creation of a safe haven in northern Syria, across the 500-mile (800km) border that links the two countries, as a precondition for joining the battle against Isis.

American officials told the mediathey had agreed to work with Turkey and Syrian rebel fighters to clear a 60-mile strip of land near the border that would constitute a safe haven for Syrian refugees. Turkey hosts about 1.8 million displaced people who fled the civil war.

But it remains unclear how the safe haven will be policed, whether it will have to include a de facto no-fly zone patrolled by coalition planes, and what the response will be if troops loyal to the regime of the embattled Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, attack American allies including the Kurdish militias (YPG) and Syrian opposition fighters battling Isis in northern Syria.