FILE PHOTO: Turkish forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are seen at the al Baza’a village on the outskirts of al-Bab town in Syria © Khalil Ashawi / Reuters
The Kurds have been the main fighting force battling jihadist on the ground in Iraq and Syria, playing an essential role in the US-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa.
In May, the US Department of Defense confirmed the delivery of heavier weapons to US-allied Kurdish fighters which the US believes are needed to outmaneuver the Syrian government and retake the city of Raqqa from IS.
“We will definitely not remain silent and unresponsive to the support and arming of terror organizations next to our borders and the forming of terror havens in the region,” Erdogan warned Saturday at the conclusion of the G20 in Germany, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation quoted.
The Turkish government has urged the US to reverse its decision to broaden support for Syria’s Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (YPG), stating that it is unacceptable for a NATO ally to support “terrorist groups.”
Ankara perceives the YPG as terrorists allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant movement whichTurkey has been battling for three decades. And while Washington agrees with Ankara’s designation of the PKK as a terrorist organization, the US rejects the idea that Kurdish forces in Syria or Iraq should be equated with the PKK.
Turkey also feels threatened by the Kurds in Iraq, especially after the US pumped millions of dollars into the Iraqi army which relies heavily on Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
Last month Iraq’s Kurdish region announced that they will hold an independence referendum in September. Erdogan spoke out against the move, fearing that it might produce a domino effect leading to Kurdish-controlled autonomous areas (cantons) in northern Syria to declare independence as well.
“We do not support the idea of a divided Iraq, and a referendum would hurt the peace and stability in the country,” Erdogan said in Hamburg. “If division starts in the north, it would extend to Turkmens, Arabs and there can even be a sectarian-based division between Shias and Sunnis.”
Erdogan emphasized that Turkey will not allow a Kurdish state to be established in northern Syria. However, despite repeated reports that the Kurds in Syria want to create their own state, there’s been no official moves to suggest that an independence declaration is imminent.