One of the leaders of a Turkish pro-Kurdish party on Tuesday crossed the border to visit the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab which has been besieged by IS militants, calling for urgent action by Turkey against the jihadists.
Selahattin Demirtas, a co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) who came in third against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August presidential elections, also met a senior Syrian Kurd leader in the town, known as Kobane to the Kurds.
Ain al-Arab, just a few kilometres south of the Turkish border, has been besieged by militants from Islamic State (IS) for the last days, provoking an exodus of some 160,000 refugees into Turkey.
“We crossed into Kobane and held a meeting with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chair,” Demirtas said, referring to a Syrian Kurdish party and not giving the name of the official.
“There were IS terrorists just two kilometres away. Kobane has been besieged by IS militants from all sides,” he said after returning to Suruc on the Turkish side of the border, in comments broadcast on national television.
Demirtas did not indicate how close to the centre of the town he had been.
Turkey, after months of caution in the fight against IS, has decided to harden its policy and this week parliament is set to authorise military action against the militants. However, what this may entail is so far unclear.
Around 50 tanks Turkish tanks have been deployed on the border crossing of Mursitpinar as well as weapons including artillery, an AFP correspondent said.
Demirtas called for strong action against IS from the Turkish government, saying this would help the peace process at home with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants who have waged a 30-year insurgency but largely observed a ceasefire since March 2013.
Kurds have been infuriated by the reluctance of the government to let Kurds cross the border back into Syria to join the fight against IS.
“Turkey can minimise the disappointment among its citizens only if it takes action,” Demirtas said.
“If everyone joins forces, no one can defeat a people who are championing a legitimate cause,” said Demirtas, who will hold talks with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutolgu on Wednesday.
“Everyone should know that if IS enters Kobane, we will never accept their victory,” he added.
Many refugees arrived by car and the Turkish authorities Tuesday were digging deep trenches in which to put the refugees vehicles to prevent them from driving through Turkey.