MESOP ANKARA : Turkey continues to shell PYD, threatens ‘harshest’ reaction, criticizes Russia, US / CONFRONTATION TURKEY / RUSSIA


February 16, 2016, TODAY’S ZAMAN | ANKARA – Turkey on Monday continued to shell the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) near the town of Azez in northern Syria for a third day, threatened to render the air base seized by Kurds “unusable” and warned that it will show the “harshest reaction,” while criticizing Russia and the US for their actions in the Middle East.

Speaking to the reporters en route to Ukraine, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Monday that the PYD’s armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia would have taken control of the towns of Azez and Tal Rifaat in the south had it not been for Turkish shelling at the PYD over the weekend.

“The YPG elements were forced away from near Azez. If they get closer again, they will see the harshest reaction. We will not allow Azez to fall,” said Davutoğlu.

The Turkish prime minister also threatened that Turkey would make the Menagh air base near Azez “unusable” if the YPG, which seized it over the weekend from Syrian rebels, did not withdraw. He also repeated once again that Turkey doesn’t want to see the YPG move west of the Euphrates river or east of the Afrin region, as this is a “red line” for Ankara. Davutoğlu also said on Monday that Turkey will take all kinds of measures for its own security, as no other country in the region has been affected by the developments in Syria as much as Turkey.He accused Russia of supporting the PKK and the YPG. “Today the PKK in Turkey and the YPG in Syria clearly are Russia’s instruments. They are the pawns of its [Russia’s] expansionist policies,” said Davutoğlu. As Russia has been using some tools to push Turkey into a corner, Turkey’s actions in Syria has “a very legitimate base,” Davutoğlu said, according to the Anadolu news agency.He also said that a Russian ballistic missile had hit a school and hospital in the northern Syrian town of Azez, killing many civilians including children.Davutoğlu said Russia and the Kurdish YPG militia had closed the humanitarian border north of the Syrian city of Aleppo, and that Moscow’s aim was to leave the international community with just two options in Syria: President Bashar al-Assad or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Turkish army continued to shell YPG targets in northern Syria for a third day on Monday, after an attack on a border post in Turkey’s Hatay province, according to Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç. He also criticized US Department of State spokesperson John Kirby’s recent remarks commenting on the PYD and Turkey as if the PYD and Turkey were equals. He stated that Turkey conveyed its protests about Kirby’s remarks to the US authorities without elaborating further. Bilgiç also stressed that Turkey has extended the necessary documents to US Vice President Joe Biden about the link between the PYD and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Deputy PM to the US and Russia: Come to your senses

In the meantime, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş on Monday called the US and Russia to come to their senses. Speaking on a program on pro-government A Haber television, Kurtulmuş said it is not reasonable to try to reshape the Middle East, as if you are playing a “fighting game” on a table. He said no one can predict what will be the consequences of a full-fledged war in the region. He stressed that the recent developments may be the beginning of a fight for who will dominate the eastern Mediterranean region. “Everyone should be cautious and come to their senses. Threatening others in the region or using certain elements in the field, such as terrorist organizations and armed groups, means no one will get what they want,” said Kurtulmuş.

He said Turkey is concerned about the developments in Syria as one day ISIL threatens Turkey and the next day the PYD attacks Turkey. He said the developments in Syria also give fuel to terrorist organizations inside Turkey. Kurtulmuş said Turkey views the developments at its Syrian border as a national security issue.The deputy prime minister also dismissed reports about a possible ground operation along with Saudi Arabia into Syria. “None of these reports about a ground incursion are valid or true,” he said.

On Monday, Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz denied a report that some Turkish soldiers had entered Syria at the weekend and said Ankara was not considering sending troops there, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. The Syrian government had said Turkish forces were believed to be among 100 gunmen who entered Syria on Saturday with a dozen pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, in an operation to supply insurgents fighting Damascus.

“It is not true. … There is no thought of Turkish soldiers entering Syria,” Yılmaz said. He also denied reports that Saudi Arabian aircraft had already arrived at Turkey’s İncirlik air base to join the fight against ISIL, but said a decision had been reached for Saudi to send four F-16 jets.A Turkish soldier was killed on Sunday evening after Turkey’s security forces clashed with a group at the Syrian border that was trying to enter Turkey illegally, the armed forces said in a statement. The Turkish military said the clash occurred in the Yayladağı area of Hatay province.

Syrian rebels, backed by the US and Turkey, say the YPG is fighting along with the Syrian regime forces, but the YPG denies this.Backed by the Russian air strikes, Syrian regime forces came closer to the Turkish border, and exploiting the situation, the YPG seized ground from Syrian rebels to extend its presence along the Turkish border. Turkey doesn’t want to see a Kurdish entity in the north of Syria and worried that it may encourage separatist ambitions among Turkey’s Kurds. Ankara views the PYD and its armed wing the YPG as a terrorist organization due to its links with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is classified as a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Turkey. But the US says under its laws, the PYD is not considered terrorist. The PYD has emerged as one of the leading forces in the fight against the terrorist ISIL and the US considers the PYD as an ally.