Turkey will send troops to Syria to protect its border where Syrian Kurds have made significant gains in the past month, several Turkish media outlets reported Sunday.
In response to claims that Turkey would be conducting a cross-border military operation in Syria, the Turkish foreign minister said any necessary announcements about the issue would be made after the National Security Council (MGK) meeting, which will be held June 29.
“We have a MGK meeting tomorrow; we will make the necessary announcements afterwards,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as saying on June 28 in the Black Sea province of Ordu’s Ünye district, neither accepting nor denying any of the claims.
Hürriyet Daily News reported June 27 that Turkey’s government wanted more active military action to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the Syrian regime and both Kurdish and jihadist forces in Syrian territory, but the military was reluctant to do so, playing for time as the country heads for a new coalition government.
Turkish news outlet Cumhuriyet Daily reported on Sunday that the military had not been deployed but that it was already in planning stages. The deployment of Turkish troops into Syria is likely to be a major game-changer in Syria. Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO and its proximity to Syria has made the country a key player in the American-led coalition to fight the Islamic State (IS) group.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Turkey was ready to respond to “any contingency” in terms of its border security along the frontiers with Syria and Iraq
Kurds in Syrian Kurdistan have been fighting the IS group on the Turkish border for the past year, and their recent advances have worried Turkey, which is opposed vehemently to a Kurdish state on its border.
“I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech last Friday. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.”
The Turkish government has not confirmed or denied the reports, but said the announcement would be made on Tuesday.
Turkey has a tumultuous relationship with its own Kurdish population and worried the recent gains would allow their Syrian counterparts to consolidate territory from Kobani to the Kurdish canton of Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan. Kurdish leaders have denied they have plans to do so.
Turkey’s alleged “active support” for Syrian moderate rebels with the Free Syrian Army would involve roughly 18,000 ground forces, air support and artillery on a stretch of land spanning from Kobani to Mare, an FSA-controlled town in northwestern Syria, the Daily Beast reported, citing local media reports.
Syrian rebels have, in some cases, participated in Kurdish offensives to push back IS militants in the border area with Turkey. Turkey said will support the rebels in pushing back both IS and Kurdish forces from the border.
Earlier this year, Syrian Kurds were largely fighting in the border town of Kobani where IS was pushed out in January. Early last week, Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units seized Tel Abyad, cutting off a key supply route from Turkey to the IS de-facto headquarters in Raqqa. By the end of last week IS launched a major assault to retake Kobani, killing at least 200 people.