Turkey concerned by Kurdish PYD but ‘not on target list’
Turkey is concerned by the advance of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria but the Syrian Kurdish group is not on the “target list” of Ankara’s current anti-terror operation, an official said on Saturday.
The PYD’s Kurdish fighters control large parts of northern Syria on the Turkish border, where they have for months engaged in bitter fighting with Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
The PYD has “incredibly close links” with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a separatist-tinged insurgency in Turkey for three decades and is regarded by Ankara as a terrorist group, a Turkish government official told reporters.
Turkey is currently waging what Ankara describes as a two-pronged “war on terror” against both IS and the PKK, although so far air strikes have overwhelmingly focused on bases of the Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
The official said: “The PYD is not on our target list. We are not going to attack the PYD as long as they are not going to attack Turkey.”
But he added that Ankara still has problems with the group, accusing elements of being allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that these concerns have been presented to the US as the two countries work to create a zone free of IS jihadists inside Syria.
The comments came as authorities launched new dawn raids to arrest suspected IS and PKK members, with the official Anatolia news agency saying at least 84 suspects had been detained in several provinces including Istanbul as well as Mardin and Gaziantep in the southeast and Van to the east.
Police seized a large number of explosives, Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, Anatolia said.
Kurdish rebels have responded to the government’s “anti-terror” campaign by tearing up a 2013 ceasefire and waging a bloody campaign that has left 39 members of the security forces dead since July 20, a Turkish government official said Saturday.
More than 2,500 people have so far been detained in raids targeting suspected members of the PKK, IS and the Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C), an official said Saturday, the overwhelming majority from the PKK.
More than 600 people remain in custody, he added.