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Turkey will help Kurds fight Islamic State across the border in sudden policy shift

“We have no wish at all to see Kobane fall.”

Pictured here earlier thsi month, Iraqi Kurdish soldiers pause from combat to make tea near to the front line in Mahmoudiyah, Iraq, a day after they take control of the village from the Islamic State group.
Pictured here earlier thsi month, Iraqi Kurdish soldiers pause from combat to make tea near to the front line in Mahmoudiyah, Iraq, a day after they take control of the village from the Islamic State group.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

TURKEY HAS DROPPED its refusal to allow Kurdish fighters over the border to defend the besieged Syrian town of Kobane, saying it was now helping Iraqi peshmerga to cross the frontier in a major policy shift.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had no desire so see Kobane fall to Islamic State jihadists who have been battling Syrian Kurdish fighters for over a month for control of the town.

The influx of the well-trained peshmerga fighters into Kobane could be a major boost for the Kurds, who are now being helped by US-led air strikes and air drops.

“We are assisting peshmerga forces to cross into Kobane,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.

We have no wish at all to see Kobane fall.

The Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported that Turkey had approved the request from Massoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, for the peshmerga fighters to cross.

The switch came after the American military dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurdish fighters from cargo aircraft.

Cavusoglu did not comment directly on the air drops, saying only that Turkey was now “evaluating” the latest US move.

“We have been in full cooperation with the coalition. We want to be rid of all the threats in the region,” he said.

NTV television quoted sources as saying the transit of fighters was already in progress and would continue. It was not clear where they were crossing the border.

‘Turkey playing double game’

Turkey has until now refused to allow Kurdish fighters to cross its border to join the battle against IS militants for Kobane, fearing the creation of a powerful Kurdish fighting force straddling the border.

Turkish security forces have been waging a 30-year conflict with the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose battle for self-rule in the southeast has left 40,000 people dead.

However Turkey in recent years has built up strong relations with the Kurdish authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq which control the peshmerga forces.

Turkey will help Kurds fight Islamic State across the border in sudden policy shift
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  • Kobane

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Kobane

    Smoke from a fire rises following a strike in Kobani.Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Kobane

    Smoke from a fire rises following a strike in Kobani.Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Kobane

    Members of the media sit on a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, as they watch the fighting in the distance.Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Kobane

    An explosion following an air strike in Kobani.Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Kobane

    The sun sets on the hilltop from where people are watching the fighting.Source: AP/Press Association Images

Despite the agreement over the peshmerga, Turkey is still set to block any PKK fighters from entering Syria.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the weekend rejected calls for Turkey to arm the main Kurdish party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), saying “just as the PKK… it’s a terrorist organisation.”

Sinan Ulgen, head of the Istanbul Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), said the developments showed there was agreement between Washington and Ankara on helping Kobane.

He said Turkey was playing a “double game” between Erdogan’s tough rhetoric and its desire not to let Kobane fall and thus ruin Turkey’s own peace process with the Kurds.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Kurds fight back as Islamic State attempts to take centre of battleground city >

More: This is how close ISIS is to crossing into Turkey >

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