October 20, 2014
ANKARA,— Turkey on Monday said it was assisting Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to cross its borders to join Syrian Kurdish YPG forces battling Islamic State IS jihadists for the town of Kobani in Syrian Kurdistan.
"We are assisting Peshmerga forces to cross into Kobani," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara, adding that talks on the issue were ongoing but without giving further details.
"We have no wish at all to see Kobani fall" to the jihadists, he added.
The announcement represented a major switch by Turkey, which until now has refused to allow Kurdish fighters to cross its border to join the battle against Islamic State (IS) militants for Kobani.
It also came after the American military dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been battling jihadists for Kobani for over a month.
Cavusoglu did not give a direct comment on the air drops, saying only that Turkey was now "evaluating" the latest move by the United States.
But he also did not give any indication that Turkey was angered by the air drops, as many commentators had expected.
"We have been in full cooperation with the coalition. We want to be rid of all the threats in the region," the minister said.
Turkish security forces have been waging a 30-year conflict with the Kurdish fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose battle for self-rule in Turkish Kurdistan in the southeast of the country has left 40,000 dead.
However Turkey in the last years has built up strong relations with the Kurdish authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq who control the Peshmerga forces.
It appears that despite the agreement over the Peshmerga, Turkey will still block any PKK fighters from entering Syrian Kurdistan.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had at the weekend rejected calls for Turkey to arm the main Kurdish party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), saying "just as the PKK... it's a terrorist organisation."
Turkey has come under increasing pressure over the last month to step up its support for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
But Ankara has so far refused to use its own troops or even let US forces launch their bombing raids on IS from the Incirlik air base in the nearby Adana province.
The Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported earlier that Turkey had responded positively to the request from Massoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, to allow Peshmerga forces pass through Turkish territory.
Since it was established in 1984 the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, with the aim of creating an independent Kurdish state, but now limited its demands to to establish an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds,[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] who make up around 22.5 million of the country's 75-million population but have long been denied basic political and cultural rights, its goal to political autonomy. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with PKK rebels.
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