The Turkish government is gravely concerned by reports that Syrian Kurds are seeking to consolidate their control of northern Syria to take advantage of the impending collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Reports have circulated that Syrian Kurds, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), who are concentrated in the northern part of the country, have joined forces with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to take control of the region.
This measure has been facilitated by the withdrawal of Assad’s soldiers from towns in the area.
The Turks have waged a long and bitter war with PKK, a militant group that seeks to form an independent Kurdish nation separate from Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has sternly warned that his country will take decisive measures to prevent any attempts by Kurds to establish a foothold across the border in Syria.
“We will not let the terrorist group [PKK]… set up camps [in northern Syria] and pose a threat to us,” Erdo?an told reporters in Turkey prior to his departure for London to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremonies.
“No one should attempt to provoke us. We will not bow to provocation but rather take whatever steps are necessary against terrorism.”
Today’s Zaman, a Turkish newspaper, reported that Ankara may consider sending troops into the region to quell any Kurdish takeover of northern Syria.
“This has been included in our changed rules of engagement [regarding a military threat from Syria],” Erdogan told Turkey’s Kanal 24 television network.
“This is Turkey’s uncontestable right.”
The Prime Minister recalled that Turkey took similar steps in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq in recent years.
“Turkey’s airstrikes in northern Iraq at times were also steps taken as a security measure,” he said.
“And as the central Iraqi government did not object to that, the regional government in northern Iraq also accepted it.”
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani raised the stakes in this deadly game by claiming that his group had been providing military training to Syrian Kurds in Iraq – an announcement that Erdogan condemned.
Erdogan reiterated that his government views the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, not any other entity.
“We have the SNC and it is headed by a Kurdish brother of ours,” Erdo?an, in a reference to Abdulbaset Sieda.
“Any such state there [in northern Syria] could not be seen as the Kurdish people’s own state. It would rather be a state of the terrorist PKK and the PYD.”
Erdogan also warned that a Syria that fragments into ethnic-sectarian lines would pose a grave danger to the region.