News / Middle East

Turkey Alarmed at Syrian Border Fighting

FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
x
FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Dorian Jones
Turkey's foreign minister has voiced concern over the spillover of violence from the war in neighboring Syria and called again on the United Nations Security Council to act. The latest alarm stems from fighting near the border between Syrian Kurds and Islamist fighters of the al-Nusra Front. A pro-Kurdish party in Turkey says Ankara's support for Islamist rebels in Syria is a factor in the violence.

Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party has accused the Turkish government of supporting the al-Nusra Front, an Islamist faction among the rebels battling to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The party's accusation follows the eruption of fighting between al-Nusra fighters and Syrian Kurds of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. Ankara says stray gunfire from that fighting killed two of its citizens in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar Tuesday.

Ertugrul Kurkcu, a parliamentary deputy for the BDP, suggests Turkey might have involvement behind the violence in the adjacent Syrian town of Ras al-Ain.

"It's obvious Turkey would be happy for a weaker Kurdish administration in Syria, therefore I think there is a tactical infringement in this new phase of clashes in [the] Syrian Kurdish area," Kurkcu said.

The PYD factor

The PYD controls a large swath of northeastern Syria bordering Turkey, after Syrian government forces withdrew last year. Ankara accuses the Syrian Kurdish party of being affiliated with the PKK, which has fought the Turkish state for greater Kurdish rights for three decades, although the two sides are now involved in tentative peace efforts.

Political observers say Turkish suspicions of the PYD have been heightened by a recent declaration that it was planning to declare autonomy in the areas of Syria it controls.  However a senior Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that Ankara was supporting al-Nusra and said the only support Turkey is giving is to the broad opposition Syrian National Coalition.

Diplomatic columnist Semih Idiz for the Turkish newspaper Taraf says such a denial is questionable, especially in the light of the latest clashes.

"Ankara made a statement saying it's premature to criticize this group [al-Nusra]. It suggested this group was one of the most effective groups, so it's not unlikely they might be getting support. Now whether this support is in the form of weapons that I don't know, but it could be logistic support," Idiz said. "There are already rumors that fighters in this latest incident were brought into hospitals in Turkey. In fact the locals reacted angrily to this."

Turkish forces have strengthened their presence on the Syrian border near where the fighting was taking place.

Call for intervention

Late Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu voiced alarm at the situation and reiterated his call for international intervention. He said it shows the extent to which the crisis in Syria can affect Turkish citizens and Turkey, and that this is the moment for the U.N. Security Council to act.

But observers say any intervention by the U.N. is unlikely.

Sinan Ulgen, head of the Istanbul-based research institute Edam, says the clashes between al-Nusra and the Syrian Kurds could get worse.

"It can certainly unravel in a more significant way, essentially because there is a power vacuum and there is no willingness from the outside actors to intervene and to establish limits," Ulgen said. "There is a definitively a scenario where we would see these kind of situations unfolding in a bigger way."

The Turkish government is said to be trying to come up with a new strategy to face the prospect of growing border instability stemming from the Syrian conflict. But analysts caution that because of Turkey's own large and restive Kurdish minority, any policy aimed at the Syrian Kurds will likely have domestic implications.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid