Turkey may hit U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds to block advance
Turkey will "do what is necessary" to prevent U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish rebels from declaring autonomy in the town of Tel Abyad near the Turkish border, including conducting further military operations, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Syria, but it sees advances by autonomy-seeking Kurds, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as a threat to its own national security, fearing they could stoke separatism among Turkish Kurds, the report says.
Turkish jets recently hit the Syrian Kurds' armed People's Protection Units (YPG) targets twice after they defied Ankara and crossed west of the Euphrates River.
"This was a warning. Pull yourself together. If you try to do this elsewhere - Turkey doesn't need permission from anyone - we will do what is necessary," Erdogan said, signaling he could defy Washington's demand that Ankara avoid hitting Syrian Kurds and focus its military might on Islamic State targets.
Read alsoTurkish forces cross into Iraq responding to Kurdish militant attackErdogan, in remarks broadcast live on the Kanal 24 television station, also accused the PYD of carrying out "ethnic cleansing" in the area and said Western support for the Syrian Kurdish militias amounted to aiding terrorism.
"We are determined to (combat) anything that threatens us along the Syrian border, inside or out."
Western allies are now arming the Kurds, he added.
Read alsoTurkey files gas price claim against Gazprom"They don't even accept the PYD as a terrorist organization. What kind of nonsense is this?" he said. "The West still has the mentality of 'My terrorist is good, yours is bad.'"
Within Turkey, the armed forces have resumed their 30-year fight with militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which wants autonomy for the Turkish Kurds and also has close links with their ethnic brethren across the border in Syria.
Erdogan said 1,400 PKK militants were fighting alongside the YPG in Syria.
The United States and Europe, like Turkey, classify the PKK as a terrorist organization but regard the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish groupings as valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State and other jihadis.