Turkey will not allow Kurds to take control of northern Syria, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 24, accusing the Syrian Kurds of grabbing land in Turkey’s war-torn southern neighbour.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds’ political arm PYD a terrorist organisation for its alleged links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK. The PYD’s militia, known as YPG, has proved to be the most effective group on the ground in Syria battling against Islamic State (IS).
The US has been supporting the YPG in its fight against IS. Ankara was angered by recent reports suggesting that the US air dropped guns and ammunitions to Syrian rebels, including the YPG.
Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous regions -they call “cantons”- along Syria’s border with Turkey, which has been struggling with a wave of attacks by PKK militants since the collapse of a ceasefire with the PKK in July.
Recently, the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, which was recaptured from IS in July by the YPG, declared autonomy and decided to join the Syrian Kurd’s Kobani canton.
Erdogan lashed out countries over their support for the PYD without naming them. “They say the PYD is a political organisation. No, it is a terrorist organisation. It harbours, 1,400 PKK militants,” said Erdogan. “Turkey would not allow northern Syria to become a victim of Kurdish groups’ scheming. This is a threat for Turkey”.
The government in Ankara fears that the Syrian Kurds’ territorial gains in northern Syria could spark separatist sentiments among its own Kurdish minority.
Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (HDP) had toughened their positions against Turkey’s Kurdish party HDP ahead of the June elections in which the AKP lost its majority in parliament for the first time since coming to power in 2002 due mainly to the HDP’s electoral success. The HDP won 13% of the vote, securing 80 seats in the 550-seat parliament.
Most opinion surveys have suggested that the HDP would be able to clear the 10% threshold to enter parliament in the snap elections scheduled for November 1, while the AKP would not secure enough vote to form a single-party government.
Erdogan also criticised the Russian president Vladimir Putin for hosting his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Moscow. Assad travelled to Moscow to thank Putin for Russia’s military support.
Russia began airstrikes in Syria last month, targeting mostly anti-government groups but also IS.
“How could Putin welcome on a red carpet someone who is responsible for the death of 370,000 people?” asked Erdogan.
Following Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow, Putin had a telephone conversation with Erdogan to brief him on the Syrian leader’s visit. During the conversation, Erdogan reportedly pointed to the links between the PKK and PYD.
Erdogan last week claimed that not only Islamic State, but the PKK, the PYD, and Syria’s intelligence also played a role in the twin suicide bombings in Ankara,
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