The head of the main Kurdish political party in Syria on Friday called on Turkey to allow its territory to be used for passing weapons to Kurdish fighters defending the key Syrian town of Kobane.
Salih Muslim, the leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Agence France-Presse that Turkey should understand that the Kurds are not a “threat” for Ankara.
“We are in an urgent need of help from Turkey,” Muslim told an AFP correspondent in a telephone interview, speaking in Turkish.
“It would be very good if Turkey urgently opens its soil for the passage of military weapons, not Turkish soldiers, for Kobane,” the leader, now based outside Syria, said by phone from Brussels.
Beleaguered Kurdish fighters are waging a desperate resistance to stop jihadists from taking Kobane, and they need extra ammunition, not just air strikes from the US-led coalition, Kurdish officials have said.
Muslim welcomed Ankara’s involvement in the US-led international coalition to defeat the Islamic State (IS) militants, and urged it to take action.
Turkey has so far been reluctant to take robust action against IS jihadists, who have made gains in large swathes of both Syria and Iraq.
The Turkish government got a green light from parliament authorising its army for military action in neighbouring Syria. But Ankara has yet to commit its well-trained forces to the fight.
It has also prevented Kurds from moving across the border to join the fight against the jihadists, angering Turkey’s Kurdish population.
But last weekend, Muslim made an unannounced visit to Turkey for a rare meeting with officials in Ankara.
He said he was told that Ankara would do “what was necessary for Kobane not to fall”, adding that IS militants were a threat for Turkey the same as for Syrian Kurds.
Muslim called for “dialogue” between Syrian Kurds and the international community for any operation against jihadists in northern Syria.
Turkey, which has fought a 30-year insurgency against Kurdish rebels in its southeast, has also hesitated to act for Kobane over fears it could embolden Kurdish forces.
“Kurds want to take their place within a democratic pluralistic Syria with their own identity. They do not want anything else,” said Muslim.
“Turkey has its own policies toward the Kurdish region. We have no problem if Turkey does not object to this.”
– ‘Empty fears’ –
He said Turkey had no reason to fear a strong Kurdish presence on its border with Syria.
“These are empty fears, and are in vain. We have never posed a threat to Turkey,” said Muslim.
“We have our people on both sides of the border. The two sides of the border must be protected well,” he added.
Muslim said “good relations” were always important.
“The eyes of all Kurds are on Kobane,” he said.
“If Turkey adopts a positive stance, it will win the sympathy of Kurds in Rojava,” he added, using the Kurds’ term for the Kurdish-populated part of Syria.
He said the IS jihadists could be finished if air strikes cut off their supply routes.
“Air strikes are very effective, facilitating the job of the People’s Protection Units (YPG),” he said, referring to the Kurdish fighters battling the militants.
But Muslim called for “more intensive air raids” because the IS fighters were getting help through the parts of northern Syria they control. “If those routes are cut off, they cannot resist more,” he said.
Muslim said there were more than 10,000 civilians still in Kobane, staying in the centre and trying to protect themselves bearing weapons.
Other Kurdish officials in the town, however, have said that all civilians have left, and Kobane has been declared a military zone by the YPG.
Asked about Ankara’s reluctance to let YPG members in Turkey cross into Syria, Muslim said: “Turkey should clear itself of such concerns. Turkey must understand that we are not a threat.”