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Only Syrian opposition and Peshmerga can save Kobani: Turkish PM - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Smoke and flames rise from an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) position in the town of Kobani during airstrikes by the US-led coalition seen from the Turkish–Syrian border, on October 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Smoke and flames rise from an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) position in the town of Kobani during airstrikes by the US-led coalition seen from the Turkish–Syrian border, on October 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Ankara, Reuters—Turkey cannot be expected to send troops to defend the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani and only Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Syria’s own moderate opposition can save it, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.

US warplanes have been bombing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions near Kobani for weeks, but airstrikes alone will not be enough to repel the insurgents, Davutoğlu said.

“Saving Kobani, retaking Kobani and some areas around Kobani from ISIS, there’s a need for a military operation,” he said in an interview with the BBC broadcast on Tuesday.

But he made clear neither Turkey nor Western allies would commit troops.

“If they [the international anti-ISIS coalition] don’t want to send their ground troops, how can they expect Turkey to send Turkish ground troops with the same risks on our border?” Davutoğlu said.

Kobani, on Turkey’s southeastern border, has been encircled by ISIS fighters for more than a month, and the battle to save it has become a test of the US-led coalition’s strategy for halting the radical Sunni Muslim group’s advance.

Turkish officials have rebuffed international criticism over their reluctance to do more to help Kobani’s beleaguered Kurdish defenders, whom they say are linked to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

After pressure from Western allies, Turkey last week agreed to let Peshmerga forces from Iraq cross its territory to reach Kobani as its preferred alternative to US planes airdropping weapons to Kurdish fighters in the town.

On Monday a Turkish official denied accusations from a Syrian–Kurdish leader that Ankara was stalling on the deal, saying the Peshmerga could cross “as soon as they are ready.”

“The only way to help Kobani since other countries don’t want to use ground troops, is sending some peace-oriented or moderate troops to Kobani. What are they? Peshmerga . . . and Free Syrian Army [FSA, Syrian opposition forces].”

No coalition allies have publicly called on Turkey to intervene militarily, but images of Turkish troops standing by as ISIS advanced just across the border have drawn criticism.

Turkey has repeatedly called for a long-term strategic plan for Syria involving the removal of President Bashar Al-Assad from power, fearing that Assad’s forces or Kurdish militants will fill the void if ISIS is pushed back.

Davutoğlu renewed calls on the United States to train and arm fighters from the FSA, a loose coalition of groups who have been battling Assad and have long been supported by Turkey.

“Equip and train the FSA so that if ISIS leaves, the regime should not come, so that if ISIS leaves, PKK terrorists should not come,” he said.

“We will help any forces, any coalition, through airbases [within Turkey] or through other means if we have a common understanding to have a new pluralistic, democratic Syria.”

Washington has committed to arming the Syrian opposition to fight ISIS, but officials remain concerned about identifying effective, moderate groups in the increasingly bloody and radicalized conflict.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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