Turkey will continue to strike back at Kurdish fighters of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday (14 February), despite growing pressure on Ankara to stop the shelling.
The Turkish army shelled positions held by Kurdish-backed militia in northern Syria for a second day on Sunday, killing two fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Turkey on Saturday (13 February) demanded the powerful Syrian Kurdish YPG militia withdraw from areas that it had captured in the northern Aleppo region in recent days from insurgents in Syria, including the Menagh air base. The shelling has targeted those areas.
Davutoğlu said on Saturday the shelling had taken place under “the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area”.
He demanded that the Menagh base be evacuated and said he had spoken to US Vice President Joe Biden to make that point and stress that the PYD was an extension of the PKK and a direct threat to Turkey.
In telephone talks, Davutoğlu told Merkel that Turkey “will not permit the PYD to carry out aggressive acts. Our security forces gave the necessary response and will continue to do so,” his office said in a statement.
Davutoğlu alleged to Merkel that the Syrian Kurdish forces, who Turkey accuses of being the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), had been advancing with Russian air support.
Russia is the key ally of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Turkey wants to see ousted.
He said the move by the Kurdish fighters was aimed at uprooting “hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians” from the border region and “creating a new humanitarian crisis” that would affect both Turkey and the European Union.
“This is aimed not just at Turkey but also the European Union,” he said, warning of a “new wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees”.
Syrian rebels say the YPG is fighting with the Syrian military and its allies against them in the five-year-old civil war.
The YPG denies this.
The EU and Turkey, which hosts over 2.5 million Syrian refugees, are already grappling with the crisis that saw around one million migrants cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the EU in 2015.
France had earlier called for an “immediate halt” to Turkey’s artillery bombardments while the US State Department had also urged Turkey to cease firing.
Putin and Obama speak on the phone
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama agreed to intensify diplomatic and other cooperation to implement an agreement on Syria struck at talks in Munich, the Kremlin said yesterday (14 February).
Major powers agreed on (12 February) Friday to a temporary “cessation of hostilities” in Syria. The pause is due to begin in a week’s time.
After phone talks between Putin and Obama on Sunday, the Kremlin said that both gave a “positive valuation” to the meeting on Syria in Munich on 11-12 February.
“In particular, a support was expressed to efforts of two target groups: for ceasefire and humanitarian aspects,” the Kremlin said.
Kremlin added that during the talks, the need to establish close working contacts between Russia’s and US defense ministries was underlined, which would allow them to “successfully fight the Islamic State and other terroristic organizations.”
The Kremlin also said that Putin spoke with Obama about the importance of creating a united anti-terrorism front. They also discussed the situation in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.