Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces are ready to depart for Syria to aid the embattled town of Kobane but are being held up by neighbouring Turkey, a senior official said Monday.
The town on the Turkish border has become a crucial battleground in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, which overran large parts of Iraq in June and also holds significant territory in Syria.
“Until now peshmerga forces did not go to Kobane and we are ready to send them,” Mustafa Qader, who heads the ministry responsible for Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region’s main security forces, told journalists.
“We are awaiting the stance of the state of Turkey, and because of this have not send any forces,” he said, without elaborating on what exactly is required from Iraq’s neighbour to the north for the deployment to go ahead.
Peshmerga ministry spokesman Halgord Hekmat previously said the deployment of the “support forces”, which will be armed with automatic weapons, mortars and rocket launchers, was expected to take place sometime this week.
Last week, under heavy US pressure, Turkey unexpectedly announced it would allow the peshmerga fighters to cross its territory to join the fight for Kobane.
The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in the town, the PYD, has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey.
Ankara had previously resisted calls to allow in reinforcements.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan charged in comments published Sunday that the “terror” group did not really want the peshmerga forces to deploy to Kobane for fear of seeing its influence diminished.
“The PYD does not want the peshmerga to come,” Erdogan said.
“The PYD thinks its game will be spoilt if the peshmerga come. Their setup will be ruined.”
The PKK and its allies have long had difficult relations with the parties which control the Kurdish regional government and its peshmerga forces in northern Iraq.
By contrast, Ankara has developed a good working relationship with the Iraqi Kurdish authorities.