By JOE PARKINSON in Istanbul, SAM DAGHER in Dohuk, Iraq and RORY JONES in Beirut:
Turkey said Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross its territory to reinforce the embattled Syrian city of Kobani, reversing its long-standing opposition to such aid hours after U.S. airdrops of weapons and ammunition to the city’s Syrian Kurdish defenders.
Speaking in a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu didn’t offer details how Turkish authorities would enable the transfer Kurdish Peshmerga fighters across Turkey or whether Syrian Kurdish authorities would accept additional forces.
“We are aiding the transfer of Peshmerga forces to Kobani for support. Consultations on this matter are ongoing,” Mr. Cavusoglu said.
The announcement that Iraqi Kurdish fighters would be allowed by Ankara to transit through Turkish territory to Syria followed by hours the start of U.S. airdrops of weapons and supplies to Kobani’s defenders, despite public opposition from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mr. Erdogan said Saturday he wouldn’t allow U.S. arms transfers to Kurdish fighters through Turkey and equated the Syrian Kurdish fighters with Islamic State.
Turkey’s government is wary of the Syrian Kurdish militia, which is loyal to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Ankara has fought in a low-intensity war for three decades.
In a telephone conversation Saturday, President Barack Obamainformed Mr. Erdogan about the airdrops to Kobani, which demonstrated that Turkish objections wouldn’t stop Washington providing weapons to the Syrian Kurds and protecting the credibility of campaign it is leading against Islamic State.
Three U.S. C-130 cargo planes dropped 27 bundles of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies in the northwest of the city, U.S. officials said.
The aid traveled first to Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, which controls the Peshmerga force and is headed by Massoud Barzani, Kurdish leaders said. From there, it was transported to Kobani.
Leaders of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, the Syrian Kurdish political group whose fighters are leading the battle against Islamic State in Kobani, praised the U.S. move.
“This is a turning point that will set the foundation for better ties in the future,” Aldar Khalil, senior leader in the Social Democratic Movement, an umbrella group for Syrian Kurdish parties that includes the PYD and is tied to the PKK.
“This is a huge deal,” Mr. Khalil said.
There were no signs early Monday that the fresh aid had affected fighting between Kurdish and Islamic State forces, Ferhad Shami, a freelance Kurdish journalist accompanying a Kurdish militia unit inside Kobani, said by telephone.
The militant group was using more sophisticated weaponry, such as tanks, field artillery and Humvees, than the Syrian Kurdish forces, Mr. Shami said.
Read more at WSJ
- Turkey Says It Will Aid Kurdish Forces in Fight for Kobani (nytimes.com)
- U.S. Ramps Up Push to Save Key Syrian Town (foreignpolicy.com)