News / Middle East

    Turkey Continues Airstrikes on Kurds in Syria

    FILE - Turkish troops take position in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, near the Mursitpinar border crossing with Syria, Oct. 3, 2014.
    FILE - Turkish troops take position in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, near the Mursitpinar border crossing with Syria, Oct. 3, 2014.

    Turkey is conducting a third consecutive day of cross-border airstrikes on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, and warning of a "harsh response" if Kurdish-led forces do not retreat from their positions near the border.

    The Kurdish YPG militia has taken over large amounts of territory from Islamist rebels along Syria's border with Turkey in recent days, exploiting a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the rebels.

    The YPG advance has alarmed Turkey. It accuses the group of having links to the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group viewed as a terrorist group by Ankara, and worries the Kurds may be trying to set up a separate region along the border.

    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday said his country will not let Kurdish fighters take the town of Azaz, located only a few kilometers south of Turkey. He warned if the Kurds do not withdraw from a nearby air base, then Turkish forces will make it "unusable."

    But it is not clear that Turkish airstrikes will stop the Kurdish advance. On Monday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — an alliance that also includes Arab groups — was making gains in Tel Rifaat, one of the Islamist rebels' last remaining bastions in the region.

    FILE - Internally displaced Syrians carry their belongings as they arrive at a refugee camp near the Bab al-Salam crossing, across from Turkey's Kilis province, on the outskirts of the northern border town of Azaz, Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.
    FILE - Internally displaced Syrians carry their belongings as they arrive at a refugee camp near the Bab al-Salam crossing, across from Turkey's Kilis province, on the outskirts of the northern border town of Azaz, Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.

    The SDF now controls more than two-thirds of Tel Rifaat, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group that relies on a network of contacts on the ground in Syria.

    Diplomats in New York said Monday that Russia has asked the U.N. Security Council to hold discussions on Turkish military actions in Syria and Iraq. Russia has not commented.

    The fighting underscores the complicated nature of the conflict in Syria, where fighting has killed hundreds of thousands of people and created millions of refugees over the past four-and-a-half years.

    Turkey is opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has aided various rebel groups fighting against him. But it also opposes Kurdish fighters, who have been fighting a decades-long battle for autonomy in Turkey.

    Call sparks ‘astonishment’

    Further complicating matters, the YPG Kurdish militia group is backed by the United States, a key ally of Turkey. Washington has called for Turkey to scale back its campaign against the Kurds, but Ankara appears to be undeterred.

    In a phone call this week with Prime Minister Davutoglu, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden "noted U.S. efforts to discourage Syrian Kurdish forces from exploiting current circumstances to seize additional territory near the Turkish border," according to a White House statement.

    But Biden also urged Ankara to "show reciprocal restraint by ceasing artillery strikes in the area," the statement said.

    Turkey's foreign ministry said Monday the statement was received with "astonishment," since it put U.S. "ally Turkey and a terrorist organization in the same equation." The ministry also insisted Turkey would continue its airstrikes, which it has portrayed as being retaliatory.

    The fighting comes as major powers try to implement a temporary cessation of hostilities. The cease-fire is set to begin this week, and is meant to allow humanitarian agencies to disperse badly needed emergency aid.

    The pause in fighting is also meant to create space for the resumption of international peace talks, which collapsed earlier this month, in part because of a massive Russian-backed Syrian government offensive.

     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Altima from: Bruno
    February 16, 2016 12:48 AM
    It's about time for the civilized world to encourage removal of the jihadist regime from Ankara and liberate the Turkish people to a life envisioned by Ataturk. And, establish a government that respects the rights of 20 million Kurds as a people with unique culture and language.

    by: Donald USA
    February 15, 2016 11:56 PM
    Unbelievable what Erdogon is getting away with. How can we allow him to bomb our friends.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    February 15, 2016 8:16 PM
    It is high time for Russia to provide the Kurds with advanced air defense systems to take down Turkey's planes or Russia may take down them with its S400 system.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 15, 2016 11:41 PM
    Hey Igor _ Russia doesn't have a dog in this dog fight yet, and the fight is between two allies of the US and that's not good for the US is it? .. Sooner or later the US must decide who's side they're on, if they will remain allies with the Turks and their terrorist allies, [or], remain allies with the Kurds and their terrorist allies fighting the Turks? .. all this is happening while the Russians and Syrian army advances against all the terrorists in Syria?

    PS; As long as the Turks don't target the Russians and Syrian army, why should the Russians care? .. But if the Turks try to bomb them, then expect the Russians to shoot the Turks down? .. Everyday the war goes on, the Turks and Erdogan lose more friends? .. Maybe, Erdogan might be deposed before Assad goes? .. who knows?

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