Turkey lets Kurdish fighters cross into Kobane

Turkey lets Kurdish fighters cross into Kobane

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey lets Kurdish fighters cross into Kobane

Kurds watch the Syrian town of Kobane from Mürşitpınar, a village in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, Oct. 19. AFP Photo

Turkey has been providing assistance to forces from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to cross into the Syrian border town of Kobane in order to fight against jihadists, Turkey’s foreign minister said Oct. 20 after weeks of demands that Ankara open a corridor to the besieged town.

“We are helping the Peshmerga cross into Kobane. Our discussions are still underway,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a joint press conference with Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi.

Although Çavuşoğlu did not elaborate on the ongoing discussions, Foreign Ministry sources confirmed that crossings of Peshmerga forces through Turkey had already begun.

Turkey had been in “full cooperation with the international coalition over Kobane,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“We have never wanted Kobane to fall [into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL] and never will. Turkey has made every effort to prevent that. Turkey sent humanitarian assistance and medical equipment. We have been in full cooperation with coalition forces for Kobane. We want the region to be cleaned of all threats,” he said.

Arms are for joint fighters defending Kobane

The U.S. Central Command said it had delivered on Oct. 19 weapons, ammunition and medical supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq “in the vicinity of Kobane, Syria, to resupply Kurdish forces on the ground defending the city against ISIL.”

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey viewed that U.S. air-dropped arms to Syrian rebels fighting in Kobane as part of these efforts.

The forces fighting in Kobane are not only from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), he said, noting that there seven or eight other groups of Syrian rebels that formed a joint operations room for the defense of the town called “Euphrates Volcano.”

Turkey agrees with the U.S. and other allies that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is the only group which should be supported as it is fighting both ISIL and the Bashar al-Assad regime, Çavuşoğlu said.

He renewed calls for the PYD to cooperate with the wider FSA opposition and to abandon its efforts to carve out autonomous Kurdish regions in Syria. The PYD will not obtain Turkey’s support so long as it continues to pursue its goal of controlling a specific part of Syria, he said.

Çavuşoğlu’s statement came after a phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the weekend, during which he gave advance notice to his Turkish counterpart of its plans to deliver arms to the Syrian Kurds.

“President Obama spoke to Erdoğan yesterday and was able to notify him of our intent to do this and the importance that we put on it,” Reuters quoted a senior U.S. official as saying.

Turkish diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News that the U.S. military did not use Turkish air space in air-dropping arms from the KRG to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as the YPG continues to battle the Islamic State or Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Kobane.

Meanwhile, U.S. military air-drop of arms was a response to a crisis situation and did not represent a change in U.S. policy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Oct. 20.

“We talked with Turkish authorities – I did, the president did, to make it very, very clear that this is not a shift in policy by the United States. It is a crisis moment, an emergency,” Kerry told reporters on a visit to Indonesia, adding that it was a “momentary effort.”

PYD, PKK the same for Erdoğan

The Turkish government views the PYD with deep suspicion because of its ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has previously turned down requests for it to open a land corridor so that Kobane could be resupplied from other Kurdish areas of northern Syria.

Erdoğan recently equated the PYD with the PKK, describing both as terrorist organizations.
“It will be very wrong for America with whom we are allied and who we are together with in NATO to expect us to say ‘yes’ [to supporting the PYD] after openly announcing such support for a terrorist organization,” he said Oct. 18.