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Turkey Wants Secure Syria Zone as Militants Strike Kurds 28 septembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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Bloomberg (USA) Sep 28, 2014

By Onur Ant and Selcan Hacaoglu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said setting up a “secure zone” inside Syria is necessary to help refugees return after they fled Islamic State’s onslaught against Kurdish areas into Turkey.

Erdogan’s remarks to the World Economic Forum in Istanbul may anger Kurdish officials, who accuse him of siding with Islamic State against the Kurds in Syria to justify creating a buffer zone that would smother the autonomous region there. The Turkish government denies supporting Islamic State or any militant group.

“A no-fly zone and secure zone are absolutely necessary,” Erdogan said yesterday. He said that Turkey can’t stay out of the U.S.-led coalition seeking to destroy the al-Qaeda breakaway group.

The coalition struck Islamic State militants near the border with Turkey, where they have been battling Kurdish fighters for control of the town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, the U.S. Central Command said Sept. 27. The clashes have forced thousands to flee into Turkey.

“Airstrikes by the international coalition are a positive development, but they just bombed a few places,” Orhan Sansal, the Kurdish mayor of Suruc, which lies across the border from Kobani in Turkey, said by telephone yesterday. “Islamic militants have even come closer to Kobani.”

The fallout from Islamic State’s onslaught against the Kurds in Syria is straining an alliance that had shown the potential to transform Turkey. Erdogan has taken steps shunned by past leaders to engage with Kurdish demands for wider rights, and pledged to end a three-decade guerrilla war. In turn, he’s received broad support in the largely Kurdish southeast of Turkey, where fighting has subsided during his decade in power.

Anti-Assad

Erdogan is seeking to “suffocate” the autonomous Kurdish region that emerged in Syria during the civil war, Sebahat Tuncel, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, said last week.

Turkey has been wary of the Syrian Kurds too. In an interview with Cumhuriyet newspaper published Sept. 24, deputy premier Yalcin Akdogan said the Kurds must denounce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if they want a rapprochement with Turkey, which seeks Assad’s ouster.

Erdogan said yesterday that supporting anti-government forces in Syria was also necessary while confronting Islamic State militants. Airstrikes alone won’t be able to crush the group, he said.

U.S.-Arab Coalition

The U.S. has been attacking Islamic State targets in Iraq since August. It widened its military offensive against the group into Syria this month with the help of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. The coalition is the biggest U.S.-Arab military venture since the 1991 war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

Airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria destroyed targets including four modular refineries, armed vehicles and tanks, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement yesterday. The U.S. says Islamic State uses the modular facilities in its oil-smuggling operations.

In Iraq, attacks near Baghdad and Fallujah targeted a safe house, checkpoints and a transport vehicle, the U.S. said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Onur Ant in Ankara at oant@bloomberg.net; Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

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