Turkey Warns US, Russia on Arming Syria Kurds
by Henry Ridgwell October 14, 2015
Turkey has warned both the United States and Russia against arming Kurdish forces in Syria, saying they are connected to what Ankara calls Kurdish terrorists within Turkey. Analysts say the West sees the Kurds as a vital ally in countering the spread of the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, Kurdish forces in Syria have made territorial gains against Islamic State militants. The U.S. said this week it has parachuted in ammunition — but did not specify which rebel groups it is aiding.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Wednesday warned against arming Kurdish forces in Syria — which Turkey views as terrorists allied to PKK Kurdish separatists.
Davutoglu said Turkey's stance was communicated to the United States and Russia. It means Turkey cannot accept any cooperation with groups waging a war against Turkey, he added.
The alliance between the West and Kurdish authorities in Syria, known as the PYD, is likely to strengthen, said Middle East analyst Ranj Alaaldin.
"They've constituted a very effective, pro-Western, secular force fighting ISIS. At a time like this, with the Russians intervening, with the conflict getting more and more complicated, I think the U.S. and the West in general will keep the PYD onside," he said.
Kurdish commanders told the Reuters news agency they had formed an alliance with Arab rebel groups to launch an assault on the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa; but, ethnic rivalries mean a Kurdish-led assault on Raqqa would be problematic, said Robert Lowe of the London School of Economics.
"In Arab-dominated parts there would be considerable opposition to the Kurdish militia controlling their towns – even if it meant getting rid of IS, because there are deep-rooted tensions there between the communities," stated Lowe.
Turkey fears that Kurdish groups in Syria aim to push farther west along the border over the Euphrates River, aided by Russian air support.
"The Turks would like to have the freedom to attack inside Kurdish parts of Syria, but I don't think they currently do," said Lowe. "The wider alliances with international powers make that very awkward."
Turkey said it has evidence linking both Kurdish PKK militants and Islamic State terrorists to Saturday's bombing of a peace rally in Ankara. Many Kurdish groups allege the Turkish government was behind the attack — a claim the government strongly denied.
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