Prime Minister Davutoglu said that the country will not let its connection to Aleppo be cut by any group after clashes along the Turkish border between ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been recently intensified in northern Syria.
Reports state that ISIS recently attacked the area between Azez and Mare in northwestern Syria which is controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) after the group lost Tal Abyad to the YPG, the militant wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). Then, the group was able to join the Kurdish Kobane and the Jazira “cantons,” by capturing the district.
If ISIS captures the area, it will able to take control of the area directly across the Oncupinar border crossing with Turkey and could get closer to reaching Cilvegozu, another Turkish crossing. That means the road to Aleppo from Turkish border will effectively be cut by the group.
Davutoglu yesterday said, “We will take necessary measures not to let it happen, but this does not mean we will directly intervene in the region.”
“In other words, we will take measures to prevent a fait accompli taken place south of Turkey by ISIS, the PYD or any other group which will cut Turkey’s connection to Aleppo,.But all these measures do not mean we will absolutely intervene in the region,” he said speaking Turkish TV Channel 7.
Turkish media reported that ISIS attacked the Bab al Salam border crossing connecting Syria to the Turkish Oncupinar crossing on Thursday night, reinforced by fighters coming from Jarablus, supported by tank and artillery fires. Clashes continued until Friday morning and ISIS is getting closer to the crossing, the media reports said.
The Bab al Salam crossing is controlled by the FSA and the Al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.
ISIS’ movement toward the Azez-Marea line also prompted the YPG to activate its forces in Afrin, another isolated Kurdish “canton” declared by the PYD in westernmost Syria. YPG forces are ready to move from Afrin to the area around the Bab al Salam crossing, the media reports added.
Meanwhile, ISIS strengthened its positions around Jarablus in order to respond any possible attacks from the YPG as the group continues its assault against Bab al Salam.
ISIS controls a zone from Jarablus to Mare along the Turkish border which is also laid out between Kobane and Afrin.
In a dire scenario, threatened by ISIS in Azez-Mare, the FSA could ask the YPG for help in order to protect its own region which may make the Kurdish group capable of extending its reach to Afrin.
The PYD needs to overrun Jarablus passing west of Euphrates to reach the Azez-Marea line if this scenario is to be realised. Then, the PYD might take full control of the Turkish-Syrian border and effectively arouse more suspicions in Turkey that a Kurdish state is at its gates.
The PYD is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK which is recognised as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.
In both scenarios, whether ISIS or the YPG achieves its objectives, Turkey would virtually lose its access to its border because it will completely be controlled by two groups hostile towards the country.
Therefore, the Turkish government has been alarmed by both ISIS’ moves near the Syrian towns of Azaz and Mare and the enlargement of the northern Kurdish enclaves under the control of the PYD along its long border with Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a state in northern Syria, or south of Turkey which has a large Kurdish population, no matter what it costs for the country.
Turkish daily Milliyet reported Wednesday that the country will consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the Kurdish PYD or any attack to the north of Idlib by Syrian regime forces as a “violation of the red line” which was set by the recent National security Council meeting.
Turkish daily Yeni Safak also reported this week that Ankara is planning to establish a buffer zone along the 110-kilometre long Turkish border from Karkamis (Jarablus) to Oncupinar [closer to Azez] crossing at a depth of 28 kilometres to 33 kilometres and gave a directive to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to take necessary measures.
Turkey’s main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu declared his opposition to a cross-border operation into northern Syria while Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli has previously called for a cross-border operation in order to protect Turkmens in Syria and Iraq.
Meanwhile, PYD leader Salih Muslim stated that Turkey should not enter Syria without a NATO decision, otherwise, they would resist any intervention. However, he predicted that the TSK will not enter northern Syria.
Salih Kapusuz, a high-ranking AK Party official, stated Friday that, “We have changed our rules of engagement and told the TSK to hit if necessary without expecting any further order if anything which could damage Turkey develops along its border area.” during a Ramadan iftar in a northern Black Sea province Kastamonu.
Turkish media outlets previously reported that Turkey has changed its rules of engagement to now state that ISIS which will be retaliated against by Turkey in the same manner as the Syrian Bashar Assad regime. Any armed groups approaching the Turkish border will be treated as a threat and could be shot by the Turkish military, the reports noted.