Accessibility links

Turkey Warns US, Russia Not to Arm Kurds in Syria

Turkey is warning the United States and Russia against arming Kurdish fighters in Syria. It says the fighters are linked to what it calls Kurdish terrorists in Turkey. But some observers say the West believes the Kurds can help in the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL.

Kurdish forces in Syria have captured territory from Islamic State militants. The Kurds made the territorial gains with the help of U.S.-led coalition air strikes. A few days ago, the United States said its military had dropped ammunition into Syria. But the U.S. government did not say which groups it is helping.

Turkish officials say the West should not arm Kurdish fighters in Syria. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says the fighters are allies of Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

“This stance was communicated to the United States and Russia. It means Turkey cannot accept any cooperation with groups that are waging a war against Turkey.”

Ranj Alaaldin is with the London School of Economics. He studies conflicts in the Middle East. He says the alliance between the West and Kurdish leaders in Syria will probably become stronger. Kurds in Syria are known as the PYD.

“They’ve constituted a very effective, pro-Western, secular force fighting ISIS. And at a time like this, with the Russians intervening, with the conflict getting more and more complicated, I think the U.S. and the West in general will keep the PYD onside.”

Kurdish commanders say they had formed an alliance with Arab rebel groups to launch an attack on the Islamic State’s self-declared capital, Raqqa. The Reuters news service reported their comments. But Mr. Alaaldin says the Kurds and Arabs will probably only work together for a short time.

“Given that they do have a common goal -- that is the, the end and the, and the defeat of ISIS. But I’m not that optimistic when it comes to the longer, or the bigger scheme of things, given that these are groups that in the past have been in confrontation with one another.”

Robert Lowe teaches at the Middle East Center of the London School of Economics. He says ethnic disputes may make a Kurdish-led attack on Raqqa difficult for many Arabs to accept.

“In Arab-dominated parts, there would be considerable opposition to the Kurdish militia controlling their towns, even if it meant getting rid of IS, because there are deep-rooted tensions there between the communities.”

Mr. Lowe says Turkey fears Kurdish groups in Syria want to control territory further west along the border and over the Euphrates River. He also says that Turkey believes the Kurds will receive air support from Russia.

“I think the Turks would like to have the, the freedom to attack inside Kurdish parts of Syria, but I don’t think they currently do. The wider alliances with international powers makes that very awkward, because they cannot be seen to be striking one of the few forces on the ground which does have popular support and does have a measure of legitimacy (and) who has been successful against (the) Islamic State.”

On Wednesday, Turkey said it has evidence linking Kurdish PKK militants and Islamic State terrorists to the deadly bombing last Saturday in Ankara. The bomb exploded at a peace demonstration. Many Kurdish groups say the Turkish government was responsible for the attack. Turkish officials strongly deny their claim.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Henry Ridgwell reported this story from London. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

constitute – v. to make up or form something

secular – adj. not religious; non-religious

complicated – adj. hard to understand, explain or deal with

optimistic – adj. having or showing hope for the future; expecting good things to happen

scheme of things – expression in a general view of the situation

confrontation – n. a situation in which people or groups fight, oppose or challenge each other in an angry way

considerable – adj. large in size, amount or quantity

deep-rooted – adj. existing for a long time and very difficult to change; firmly established

awkward – adj. not easy to deal with; uncomfortable

Should the US and Russia arm Kurds in Syria to help in the fight against the Islamic State terror group? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Show comments