Ankara softens stance on Syria's Kurds

2013-08-06 13:08
Turkish soldiers stand guard while Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party's members form a human chain during a demonstration to protest against the Turkish army's policy towards Syrian Kurds. (File, AFP)

Turkish soldiers stand guard while Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party's members form a human chain during a demonstration to protest against the Turkish army's policy towards Syrian Kurds. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ankara - After embarking on a peace process with Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Ankara is now softening its position on the increasingly autonomous Kurdish minority in war-torn neighbouring Syria, analysts say.

The Turkish government has long kept a wary eye on Kurdish ambitions in Syria, fearing the creation of a Kurdish state there could serve as a magnet for Turkey's own Kurdish population.

Ankara's unease only increased after Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces last year withdrew from majority Kurdish areas in the north of the embattled country and entrusted the security there to Kurdish militia.

At the time, Turkish newspapers published alarming pictures of Kurdish flags fluttering from buildings and reported that parts of the area had fallen into the hands of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or its Syrian branch, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

But since then the Turkish government has signalled a willingness for dialogue with the PYD instead of viewing the group as a threat, observers say.

The policy shift comes amid fears of a power vacuum in Syria's north, and mounting concern that Turkey, an outspoken supporter of the rebels fighting to oust Assad, could be seen to be backing al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels, experts say.

"What's Turkey's alternative?" asked Ilter Turan, a professor at Istanbul's Bilgi University.

"The channels for Turkey's leaders to have an influence in Syria are closed unless they have dialogue with Syrian Kurds, especially after it has become clear it will not be that easy to topple Assad," he told AFP.

PYD warned

In a sign of the changing times, PYD leader Saleh Muslim was invited to Istanbul for high-profile talks late last month, during which he said Turkey had promised to start providing humanitarian aid to Kurds in Syria.

"I can say that Turkey has changed its attitude towards the PYD. The simple fact that I am here already shows the biggest change," Muslim said afterwards.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the new approach to Syria's Kurds was in line with a policy change at home, where Turkish authorities are in talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to end the nearly three-decade insurgency that has claimed some 45 000 lives.

"There is nothing more natural than re-evaluating our approach toward the PYD amid the ongoing peace process in Turkey," Davutoglu said in a television interview on Friday.

At the talks with Muslim, Turkey warned the PYD against any "dangerous actions" such as a push for autonomy in the border region.

Easing their suspicions, the PYD leader said in remarks carried by the Milliyet newspaper that his movement had no intention of proclaiming independence, but that the Kurds needed to "be in charge of the region temporarily" while awaiting "a political solution in which everyone - Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs - finds their place."

Kurds in Syria make up 10% of the population and are mostly concentrated in the north.

Marginalised for decades by Damascus, Kurds and their fighters are trying to ensure that neither regime forces nor the opposition take control of their areas.

Kurd-Arab conflict

Fierce fighting has broken out in recent weeks between Kurdish forces and al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra, which is also fighting against Assad, after Syrian Kurds expelled the jihadists from the key town of Ras al-Ain on the border with Turkey.

The border clashes are a sensitive issue in Turkey, where four Turks have already been killed by stray gunfire from the Syrian side.

Amid witness reports of jihadists staying in hotels in Turkish border towns and shuttling back and forth between the two countries, Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said last week that the jihadists' suspected infiltration into Turkey was bringing Ankara "under suspicion".

The party said it would be better to "develop good relations with the Kurds instead of al-Qaeda and its affiliates".

"Turkey has never officially declared that it aided Nusra fighters, but it's clear that the group has been tolerated by the government," Turan said.

"Now it's understood that this tolerance will no longer be that generous," he added.

Davutoglu himself has dismissed the concerns over Al-Nusra, insisting that Ankara was supporting only the opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Supreme Military Council - neither of which include Al-Nusra members.

He said Ankara was pushing for Syrian Kurdish groups to join forces with the National Coalition.

"What matters here is not only the Nusra-PYD conflict. What we're trying to prevent is the breakout of a Kurd-Arab conflict," the foreign minister said.

"Kurds urgently need to take their place within the Syrian National Coalition."

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  al-nusra  |  abdullah ocalan  |  bashar assad  |  syria  |  turkey  |  syria conflict
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

An uncomfortable election

The latter few weeks of election 2014, have seen South Africans reeling from an assault on their comfort zone when it comes to voting, writes Daniel Silke

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB

GALAXY Note combines the market's largest HD Super AMOLED display,...

From R3899.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.