Turkey announced it is helping Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters cross its borders to join Syrian Kurdish forces battling Islamic State (ISIL) militants, for the Syrian town of Kobani. The move comes after the US air-dropped weapons to the Syrian Kurds.
The US Central Command said in a statement on Sunday that the air-drops in Kobani were conducted by US Air Force C-130 aircraft, deployed to the Central Command’s area of responsibility.
“The aircraft delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobani,” the statement said.
On Monday, the main Syrian Kurdish group defending Kobani further confirmed on Twitter the town had received “a large quantity of ammunition and weapons”.
Kobani, also known as Ayn Al-Arab, is besieged by Islamic State fighters to the east, west and south and bordered to the north by Turkey. The Turkish government had previously turned down Syrian Kurdish requests for it to open a land corridor so Kobani could be resupplied from other Kurdish areas of northern Syria.
Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD — and its military wing which is fighting Islamic State militants — as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the US and NATO.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that the country “wouldn’t agree to any US arms transfers to Kurdish fighters who are battling Islamic militants in Syria”.
“It would be wrong for the United States — with whom we are friends and allies in NATO — to talk openly and to expect us to say ‘yes’ to such a support to a terrorist organization,” Erdogan said, according to the state-run Anadolu agency.
Last week, Turkish war planes attacked PKK targets in Hakkari province, near the Iraqi border, causing “major damage”.
However, Turkey said on Monday it was assisting Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to cross its border to join Syrian Kurdish forces.
“We are assisting Peshmerga forces to cross into Kobani,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara. “We have no wish at all to see Kobani fall to the jihadists.”
The announcement represents a major policy change by Ankara which until now has refused to allow Kurdish fighters to cross its border to join the battle against Islamic State militants.
Cavusoglu did not give a direct comment on the air drops, saying only that Turkey was now “evaluating” the latest move by the US.