WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There has been no decision to move forward with a no-fly zone in Syria, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday, following reports that Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the option of a no-fly-zone to protect civilians.
Quoting senior administration officials, CNN reported on Tuesday that Kerry has raised the possibility of a no-fly zone in Syria along the northern border, with some initial talk about another one near the southern border with Jordan.
CNN said the idea was presented at a National Security Council meeting last Thursday even though U.S. President Barack Obama has rejected it, arguing that a political transition in which President Bashar al-Assad stepped aside was the way to address Syria’s crisis.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told a daily briefing on Wednesday that the administration continued to discuss how best to go after Islamic State in Syria.
“We continue to have discussions about how to best go after ISIL (Islamic State), and particularly there in Syria, in northern Syria in particular,” Kirby said. “We’ve talked about the concerns that the Turks have expressed about the movement of ISIL there in northern Syria.”
He added: “And to date, there’s been no decision to move forward with a no-fly zone.”
At the White House briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest said a no-fly zone was not being considered right now.
“We’ve not been in a position to take it off the table or to rule it out in the future, but we have indicated that it’s not something that we’re considering right now,” Earnest said.
U.S. NATO ally Turkey has long campaigned for a no-fly zone in northern Syria to keep Islamic State and Kurdish militants from its border and help stem the tide of displaced civilians trying to cross.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday reiterated her support for a no-fly zone but said Russia would need to be on board.
Obama made clear his opposition to the idea during a news conference on Friday, saying he would continue to support moderate opposition groups in Syria.
“When I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation - what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it? And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo,” he added.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker