23rd Feb 2020

Turkey requests emergency Nato meeting on Syria

  • Turkey has invoked article 4 of the Nato treaty (Photo: svenwerk)

Turkey is stepping up airstrikes against Islamic fighters in Syria and Kurdish PKK separatists in Iraq as the regional conflict escalates.

On Sunday (27 July) Turkish F-16s hit Kurdish militant camps in northern Iraq in response to a car bomb attack blamed on the rebels.

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The moves are likely to unravel any chance of peace between the two sides and follow a separate Turkish attack against Islamic state fighters in Syria on Friday.

Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara’s military excursions “can lead to consequences which can change the game in Syria, Iraq and the entire region”, reports the BBC.

Davutoglu said Turkey has no plans to send ground troops into Syria.

Ankara has since requested an emergency meeting with its Nato allies on Tuesday after invoking article 4 of the Nato treaty, used whenever a member feels threatened.

Nato in a statement said it would “follow developments very closely and stand in solidarity with Turkey”.

“Considering the recent developments in #Syria and by the PKK, #Turkey needed to take a very dif(ficult) step,” Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan tweeted.

The EU’s policy chief Federica Mogherini, for her part, told Turkey’s foreign minister to maintain the peace process with Kurdish people.

“Any action taken should avoid the risk of endangering the ceasefire and the Kurdish peace process”, she said.

The Kurds, who are asserting their independence near the Turkish border, are also fighting against the Islamic state in Northern Syria.

Last week, a bomb killed around 30 young Kurds near the border town of Suruc. That attack was blamed on the Islamic State.

But the PKK held Ankara responsible and then killed two Turkish police officers in a revenge attack the following day.

Turkey then launched a military campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria, which quickly expanded to include air strikes against Kurdish positions in Iraq.

Turkish troops, tanks, and heavy artillery had also pushed into Syria to drive away IS fighters. One Turkish soldier was killed in the fighting along with some 30 jihadists.

Meanwhile, the PKK have long accused Ankara of helping the Islamic State by allowing supplies and foreign fighters to cross into Syria along its 800 km border.

US special forces in May raided an Islamic State compound in eastern Syria to stop a jihadist leader from smuggling Syrian oil and selling it on the black market to mainly Turkish buyers.

The oil smuggling trade is thought to have contributed several million to Islamic State coffers on a daily basis.

A senior EU official told this website in February, in reference to prices in 2014, that IS can produce oil for around $12 per barrel and then sell it for around $100.

“If you don’t control the passage of goods out of the borders than you cannot stem these informal trade networks, which include anything that may have some commercial value,” said the official.

The rapid expansion of the Islamic State last year caught international observers off guard after it seized Mosul and then took over large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

US-led efforts to crackdown on IS in Syria were frustrated by Ankara’s refusal to allow coalition planes to launch attacks from inside Turkey.

But Turkey’s government has changed its position. Last week it lifted the airspace restrictions against the coalition in a move welcomed by Washington.

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