Turkey and the United States have officially agreed to set up an Islamic State-free safe zone along a stretch of the Syrian and Turkish border in an attempt to allow thousands of displaced Syrians to return to the area, an administration official confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

The move thrusts Turkey into a front-line position in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State after more than a year in which Ankara has dragged its feet in the U.S.-led coalition's war against the extremist group.

"They have come to us and asked us for help, and we have agreed to help," an administration official said. "We're very encouraged about this opening with Turkey. We think it's a significant development in the ongoing campaign" against the Islamic State.

The official denied that the U.S. air cover would amount to a no-fly zone, insisting instead that it will be designed to form a safe haven to kick out the Islamic State and allow people from the Syrian and Turkish border communities to return to the area.

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