Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that Turkey and European Union (EU) have discussed to coordinate and cooperate efforts in order to combat terrorism on June 23.
The ministry statement said, “Turkey and the EU are already close partners in the fight against terrorism, and they recognise the importance of closer coordination and cooperation in this field. Terrorism poses a direct threat to our countries and our people. International cooperation is a key to countering these threats.”
“Today's meeting explored a number of ways through which Turkey-EU contra terrorism (CT) cooperation can be strengthened and enhanced with a view to addressing CT issues of mutual interest,” the statement added.
Turkey has been dealing with various threats posed by different armed groups on its southern and eastern borders following the Syrian civil war which has particularly created a havoc across its southeastern borders in addition to the chaotic conditions already existing in Iraq after the occupation of Iraq by the US-led coalition forces.
Turkey’s Syrian border has recently been a scene for clashing parties of ISIS and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The PYD is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey as well as the US, NATO and the EU. ISIS, which is the PYD’s nemesis in northern Syria, has also been recognised as a terrorist group by the same bloc.
Turkey has long been confronted with armed attacks in its southeastern regions by the PKK, which was founded in 1974 by Abdullah Ocalan - the currently imprisoned leader of the militant organisation - and his supporters.
Armed clashes and acts of violence have continued on and off for more than 30 years, and claimed more than 40,000 lives.
Turkey’s Mosul Consulate personnel were taken hostage by the ISIS militants after the group claimed the city of Mosul. They were released following long discussions.
Turkey has also paid a heavy price when Kobane [Ayn al Arab in Arabic], one of the PYD-controlled “cantons,” in northern Syria was besieged by ISIS in September 2014 and had been the scene of a bloody fight for four consecutive months with thousands of casualties.
During the siege of Kobane, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey, called his party’s supporters to the streets to rally in support of Kobane on Oct. 6-7, 2014.
The protests, now called the Oct. 6-7 incidents, triggered bloody attacks on conservative Kurdish groups primarily with the Kurdish Free Cause Party (Huda-Par) supporters by the youth arm of PKK. The HDP is blamed for the attacks and the deaths of more than 40 people.
The incidents almost caused the country to lose its peace process with Turkey’s Kurds officially called “Resolution Process.” At the end of 2012, when the PYD-led Kurds had consolidated their power in northern Syria, Turkey announced a peace initiative following its previous “Democratic Initiative,” dated back to July 2009 and the PKK seemed responsive under the instructions of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
The capture of Tal Abyad by the YPG from ISIS could be another testing ground for Turkey. Tal Abyad is located between Kobane and Jazira “cantons” and has a strategic importance because it commands the major trade and smuggling routes to Raqqa which is the first major city conquered by ISIS. Now, by taking control of Tal Abyad, the PYD is able to join both “cantons.”
In November 2013, the PYD announced three autonomous areas or “cantons” which are Afrin, Jazira and Kobane from west to the east following withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas such as Afrin, Kobane, and Amuda where the YPG took control in July 2012 in the course of the Syrian civil war.
Turkey’s cabinet has discussed in its first post-election meeting the Kurdish “cantons.”
Turkish government spokesman Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, “We keep saying that in northern Syria, no formations which threaten Turkey should be allowed. But recent developments began indicating an emergency situation for Turkey. In the cabinet meeting we have discussed military measures, particularly in terms of operation plans, in order to ensure Turkey’s border security against the incidents happening in Syria,” following the meeting on June 15.
“Turkey does not oppose the bombing campaign of the coalition forces against the targets of ISIS. However, we see signs of a formula to make ‘cantons’ join by the coalition forces. Turkish premiership has warned them and given a notice,” he added.
Turkey and the US-led coalition forces seem to have some differences in terms of priorities in northern Syria. Turkey is concerned with the PYD activities in northern Syria along the Turkish border as much as it is concerned with the ISIS activities. However, the coalition is incomparably supportive of the PYD activities against ISIS which has heavily been bombarded by the coalition in coordination with the PYD march.
The PYD’s co-chairman Salih Muslim said, in an interview with Turkish daily Hurriyet, “We don’t have a project aimed at founding a Kurdish state,” replying a question on Ankara’s increasing concerns over the PYD activities. “Our concern is protecting ourselves, our people from the treachery of ISIS,” he added.
He has made his comments in Rome where he has been a speaker for a panel invited by the Italian government.
Meanwhile the YPG forces have kept advancing toward Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS.