Turkey plans to deploy its army into northern Syria in an effort to prevent Kurds there from officially establishing their own state, reports The Daily Beast, citing both pro- and anti-government news outlets.
On the heels of recent gains by Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that his country would not allow Syria’s Kurds to form their own state there.
“I say to the international community that whatever price must be paid, we will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria,” said Erdogan in a speech last Friday. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.”
He accused the Kurds of ethnically cleansing the areas under their control, saying they are “changing the demographic structure” of territory close to the Turkish border, which also has Arab and Turkmen populations.
Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are planning to deploy the Turkish Army into Syria, several news outlets reported after the president’s speech. The Daily Beast describes the plans as “a hugely significant move by NATO’s second biggest fighting force after the U.S. military.”
The Turkish Army has already been ordered to send troops over the border, according to both the pro-government daily Yeni Safak and the newspaper Sozcu, a critic of the government.
“Up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers [about 19 miles] deep and 100 kilometers [about 62 miles] long that currently is held by ISIS,” reports The Daily Beast, quoting several news outlets. “It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare.”
“This ‘Mare Line,’ as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday,” adds The Daily Beast.
Erdogan’s government has neither confirmed nor denied the reports.
The northern Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG), a wing of the Turkish-Kurdish rebel group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have managed to secure a swath of territory in northern Syria that stretches from the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east to the the town of Kobani along the Syrian-Turkish border.
“Ankara is concerned that the Kurds will now turn their attention to the area west of Kobani and towards Mare to link up with the Kurdish area of Afrin, thereby connecting all Kurdish areas in Syria along the border with Turkey,” reports The Daily Beast. “Erdogan expects that the Syrian Kurds, whose advance against ISIS has been helped by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, will go on to form their own state as Syria disintegrates after more than four years of war.”
Saleh Muslim, PYD’s co-chairman, has reportedly denied that Syrian Kurds want to do this. Turkey’s leaders, however, are not buying Muslim’s denial.
Turkish military leaders have reportedly expressed reluctance towards deploying soldiers into Syria.
Nevertheless, “Turkey’s pro-government press insisted there were no tensions between civilian and military leaders in Ankara,” reports The Daily Beast.