Today’s Zaman Oct 29, 2015
NATO member Turkey is part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Syria, but it sees advances by autonomy-seeking Kurds, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as a threat to its own national security, fearing they could stoke separatism among Turkish Kurds.
Turkish jets recently hit the Syrian Kurds’ armed People’s Protection Units (YPG) targets twice after they defied Ankara and crossed west of the Euphrates River.
“This was a warning. ‘Pull yourself together. If you try to do this elsewhere — Turkey doesn’t need permission from anyone — we will do what is necessary,'” Erdoğan said, signaling that he could defy Washington’s demand that Ankara avoid hitting Syrian Kurds and focus his military might on ISIL targets.
Erdoğan, in remarks broadcast live on the Kanal 24 television station, also accused the PYD of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” in the area and said that Western support for the Syrian Kurdish militias amounted to aiding terrorism.
Backed by US-led air strikes, YPG fighters captured Tel Abyad in June from ISIL and this month a local leadership council declared the town part of the system of autonomous self-governing “cantons” run by the Kurds.
“The PYD is committing ethnic cleansing here [of] Arabs and Turkmens,” Erdoğan said. “If the Kurds withdraw and don’t form a canton, there’s no problem. But if the mindset continues, then what is necessary will be done or we will face serious problems.
“We are determined to [combat] anything that threatens us along the Syrian border, inside or out.”
Turkey does not want to see an autonomous Kurdish entity resembling Iraqi Kurdistan emerging on its southern flank, said Erdoğan, speaking days before a Turkish parliamentary election that has aggravated political and security tensions. Western allies are now arming the Kurds, he added.
“They don’t even accept the PYD as a terrorist organization. What kind of nonsense is this?” he said. “The West still has the mentality that ‘My terrorist is good, yours is bad.'”
Within Turkey, the armed forces have resumed their 30-year fight with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has close links with their ethnic brethren across the border in Syria.
Erdoğan said 1,400 PKK militants were fighting alongside the YPG in Syria.
The US and Europe, like Turkey, classify the PKK as a terrorist organization but regard the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish groupings as valuable allies in the fight against ISIL and other jihadists.