Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Turkey and Nato meet, plan IS-free zone

  • Turkish authorities have detained over 1,000 people suspected of being affiliated with outlawed groups (Photo: nato.int)

Turkey is asserting its military strength against the Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) amid leaked plans to create a jihadist-free buffer zone in Syria.

On Tuesday (28 July), Turkey and its 27 Nato allies are holding emergency talks in Brussels to discuss Ankara’s recent forays against the Islamic militants in Syria and PKK positions in northern Iraq.

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Senior US officials say Turkey and US forces have agreed to push out Islamic State fighters in a zone in northern Syria along the border with Turkey.

The Washington Post reports the “safe zone” would stretch over 100 km west of the Euphrates River and into Aleppo province. The Syrian opposition would then take over.

“The goal is to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey’s border with Syria,” a US official told the paper.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over the weekend said people who have been displaced could then return to the zone.

Turkey hosts around 1.8 million Syrian refugees.

The plans are likely to be discussed at Tuesday’s Nato ministerial meeting.

Article 4

Ankara had invoked article 4 of the Nato treaty, used whenever a member feels threatened, following last week’s deadly bombing of some 30 young Kurds near the border town of Suruc.

“Turkey requested the meeting in view of the seriousness of the situation after the heinous terrorist attacks in recent days”, said Nato in a statement.

The secular PKK, for its part, has accused the Turkish authorities of colluding with IS in the bombing attack and retaliated by killing two Turkish police officers.

Ankara disputes this and says it is working against the jihadist group.

According to the prime minister’s office, authorities last year screened more than 4,500 foreign suspects wanting to join IS in Syria, denying entry to around 1,000 and deporting at least 600.

But the bombing has intensified a nation-wide crackdown on people Ankara views as a threat to its national security.

As of Monday, authorities in the country detained over 1,000 people they said were affiliated with the PKK, the Islamic State and other leftist movements in operations carried out in 34 Turkish cities.

Over the weekend, Turkish jet fighters hit PKK military targets in Iraq and, for the first time, Islamic state targets in Syria.

On Monday, it bombed a Kurdish village, provoking an outcry from the minority group whose Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) are on the frontline against the Islamic state.

The YPG accuse Turkey of also targeting its fighters and the Free Syria Army in Syria.

They say Turkey fired seven tank rounds on a Kurd and opposition-held town near the border and that they were also attacked as they laid siege to Isis-held positions in Jarabulus.

"We urge #Turkey leadership to halt this aggression and to follow international guidelines”, Rojava Defense Units said in a tweet.

Turkey denies the attack was deliberate.

Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, for his part, on Monday said they would continue to target the PKK despite its opposition to Islamic militants.

The US and Nato’s secretary general back Ankara’s crackdown on the outlawed PKK.

Turkey requests emergency Nato meeting on Syria

Turkey's two-pronged assault against Islamic state fighters in Syria and Kurdish militants in Iraq risks escalating conflict in a region long embroiled with violence.

Opinion

Turkey's dangerous gambit

The statement issued by the North Atlantic Council on Tuesday said little but was still unable to hide the disunity within Nato.

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