OSD Nominee Downplays Turkish No Fly Zone

The Obama Administration’s nominee to be the next assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday the US is in conversations with Turkey regarding a “safe zone” along its border with Syria for rebel groups. Elissa Slotkin, the current principal deputy ASD for ISA, told SASC Chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) the Turkish government has pushed for a no fly zone in the area for several years, and Vice President Joe Biden spoke with senior Turkish leaders about the matter during his visit last week. An NFZ targeting the Syrian government does not “fit the bill” at the present for the US and coalition objectives in Syria, Slotkin told Levin, but the Turkish proposal has changed over time. Pressed for details, Slotkin said the current proposal from Ankara involves a “full-range of air and land” military assets mobilized to set up a safe zone in northern Syria. She said conversations are ongoing regarding US access to Incirlik AB, Turkey, as part of this proposal. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday the US has had discussions on NFZ proposals, but “there isn’t a proposal that we’re prepared to implement.” (Slotkin prepared testimony.) (Psaki transcript.)