Istanbul, Asharq Al-Awsat—Ankara is cautiously observing the latest developments in areas with Kurdish majorities in the north of Syria, fearing they will spill over onto Turkish territory.
The Turkish government announced yesterday that a Turkish boy had been killed after being injured by a stray bullet fired from Syria. This comes amid Kurdish accusations that Ankara is supporting Islamist militants who are targeting the Kurds.
Ankara fears Kurdish secessionist ambitions, particularly following reports of attempts to set up a semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the country that would see the Kurds granted their own government.
Official Turkish sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the presence of separatist movements or a semi-autonomous administrative region along the border represents a “red line” for Ankara. The latest Turkish statement comes following reports of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, securing a strong presence in these border regions.
Despite the Syrian Kurds’ continuous denial of their intention to set up a semi-autonomous or autonomous state, Ankara remains concerned about their presence in the border area.
A Turkish foreign ministry official speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said that Ankara has confirmed information that the Syrian Kurds are seeking to establish a state, and warned them against “secessionist ambitions.” He said that these ambitions will only serve to drag the region into further chaos.
The official said that the Turkish military build-up in the region is in order to “protect the Turkish people following repeated attacks on Turkish territory.”
The Turkish source refused to comment on prospective Turkish military intervention to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state, but revealed that the Turkish government intends to ask parliament to renew the Turkish military’s mandate to conduct operations on Syrian territory if necessary.
The official said: “The government will request authorization, but this doesn’t meant that we will enter Syria tomorrow.”
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chaired a high-level security meeting to discuss the “worrying” situation in Syria earlier this week. The meeting was attended by the heads of the Turkish border patrol and intelligence services to discuss the situation on the ground in Syria and the responses available to Ankara.
The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), an affiliate of the PKK, has sought to form a government and constitution for a Kurdish state in northern Syria.
PYD official Jafar Akash informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “On the ground, there are no military movements or preparations. However, in the event that Turkey takes a step in our direction, we will respond strongly to any attack or invasion of Kurdish soil.”
He added: “There are many attempts from Turkey to abort the Kurdish experiment in western Kurdistan. The Al-Nusra Front’s attacks against us are part of Turkish attempts to strike our areas and leadership. Recently, we noticed that such groups have greater access to heavy weapons, including vehicles and rockets. They can only have obtained such weapons from a sovereign state,” he added.
Akash claimed, “We have imprisoned many soldiers from these groups and they confessed that Turkey was supporting them.”
The PYD official also told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Turkey has turned some Kurdish groups and parties against us, after we announced that we intend to build legitimate and democratic institutions in our liberated lands. We will also seek to gain electoral legitimacy through organized parliamentary elections leading to the formation of a local government.”
While stressing that the PYD does not wish to attack any other party or neighboring state, and that its main concern is establishing an administration in Kurdish areas and gaining legitimacy from the people, Akash also stressed that the party is ready to counter any future Turkish attack.