US & Turkey Disagree on Peshmerga Kobani Operation / Both sides say the other was reluctant to allow Iraqi Kurdish troops to pass through Turkey

Basnews | Luke Coleman – 29.03.2015 – ANKARA – Retired General John Allen of the US Marine Corps has told a US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Obama’s Middle East strategy that on one of his four visits to Ankara over the last four months, he was influential in persuading the Turkish leadership to allow Peshmerga through Turkish territory to assist Peshmerga fighters in Kobani. “Late one evening with [the] prime minister my direct conversation with the Turkish leadership resulted in the Turkish decision to permit the Peshmerga to reinforce the defenders of Kobani by moving through Turkey to do that,” he said, apparently contradicting the version of events put forward by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan claims that US President Barack Obama was cold to his initial suggestion that the Peshmerga move through Turkey to Kobani. Turkey have had a complicated role in the fight against Islamic State (IS), with accusations that their border with Syria is too porous. Erdoğan has made several pronouncements regarding the autonomous zone carved out by Kurds in the north of Syria in 2012, instead wishing them to break entirely from the regime in Damascus and join moderate rebels against President Bashar al-Assad.

The relationship with the Kurds is further strained by the close ties between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PYD) in Syrian Kurdistan and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).The Ankara government has not committed to any frontline role with the coalition against IS, insisting that it will only do so should the strategy involve a plan to remove Assad. In an hour long phone conversation on Thursday night, Erdoğan and Obama agreed to strengthen cooperation in preventing foreign fighters using Turkey as a staging post on the way to join Islamist militant groups in Syria, and reviewed the train and equip program for vetted members of the Syrian opposition.