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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.