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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, ride a truck as they make their way towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate August 10, 2014.STRINGER/IRAQ/Reuters

Turkey and the United States have agreed on the outlines of a plan to rout the Islamic State group from a strip of Syrian territory along the Turkish border – a plan that opens the possibility of a safe haven for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians but one that also sets up a potential conflict with U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces in the area.

The move further embroils Turkey, a key NATO ally, in Syria's civil war, and also catapults it into a front-line position in the global war against the Islamic State.

A senior Obama administration official said Monday that U.S. discussions with Turkey about an IS-free zone focused on a 110-kilometre stretch still under IS control. The U.S. has been conducting air strikes there, which will accelerate now that the U.S. can launch strikes from Turkish soil, the official said.

No agreement between Turkey and the U.S. has yet been finalized, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that any joint military efforts with Turkey would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone. The United States has long rejected Turkish and other requests for a no-fly zone to halt Syrian government air raids, fearing it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war.

While details of the buffer-zone plan have yet to be announced, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara and Washington have no intention of sending ground troops into Syria but wanted to see Syria's moderate opposition forces replace IS near the Turkish border.

"Moderate forces like the Free Syrian Army will be strengthened, a structure will be created so that they can take control of areas freed from ISIL, air cover will be provided. It would be impossible for them to take control of the area without it," Mr. Davutoglu said on Turkish television. ISIL is an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group.

The discussions came amid a major tactical shift in Turkey's approach to IS. After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes started striking militant targets in Syria last week, and allowed the U.S. to launch its own strikes from Turkey's strategically located Incirlik Air Base.

Turkey has also called a meeting of its NATO allies for Tuesday to discuss threats to its security and its air strikes. Mr. Davutoglu said "NATO has a duty to protect" Turkey's border with Syria and Iraq, and that Ankara will seek the alliance's support for its actions at the meeting in Brussels.

But a Turkish-driven military campaign to push IS out of territory along the Turkish border is likely to complicate matters on the ground.

U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, who have been the most successful in the war against IS, control most of the 910-kilometre boundary with Turkey, and have warned Ankara against any military intervention in northern Syria.

Syria's main Kurdish militia — the YPG or the People's Protection Units — is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and maintains bases in remote parts of northern Iraq.

In the absence of a no-fly zone to neutralize Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's warplanes, it is not clear how the possible buffer zone may be considered a safe haven where displaced people could return.

Despite the U.S. and Turkey's shared interests in fighting the Islamic State, the Turks have also prioritized defeating Mr. al-Assad. While the U.S. says Mr. al-Assad has lost legitimacy, it has not taken direct military action to try to remove him from office and says he is not the target of its efforts in Syria.

Ege Seckin, a Turkey expert at IHS Country Risk, said IS is a national security threat for Turkey, but was nonetheless secondary.

"The two key points in Turkey remain: one – topple the Assad regime, and two – prevent the establishment of a continuous Kurdish territorial entity in the region," he said.