27 Jul 2015

Turkey air strikes 'changing game'

7:53 pm on 27 July 2015

Turkey's air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish PKK separatists could "change the regional game", the prime minister has said.

Turkish President Ahmet Davutoglu.

Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu Photo: AFP

Ahmet Davutoglu said there were no plans to send ground troops into Syria and that air strikes were meant to support moderate rebels fighting IS.

On Sunday, Turkish jets again attacked PKK camps in northern Iraq.

NATO is to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation, at Turkey's request.

The week that changed Turkey

  • Monday: 32 people volunteering to rebuild Kobane are killed by IS-linked militants in Suruc
  • Thursday: IS forces shoot dead a Turkish border guard
  • Meanwhile, the PKK reportedly kills two Turkish police officers in retaliation for Suruc and what they see as Turkey's collaboration with IS
  • Friday: Hundreds of suspected IS supporters are arrested and properties are searched; Turkish F-16 jets, based in Diyarbakir, bomb three IS targets in Syria
  • Saturday: Turkey strikes IS and PKK targets in Syria and Iraq; the PKK says the conditions are no longer in place to observe ceasefire

Mr Davutoglu told a meeting of Turkish newspaper editors that, following Turkey's military action, there were now "new conditions" in the regional conflict.

"The presence of a Turkey that can use its force effectively can lead to consequences which can change the game in Syria, Iraq and the entire region; everyone should see that," the Hurriyet Daily News quoted him as saying.

He said other states now needed to "assess... and review their own position accordingly".

Mr Davutoglu said Turkey was prepared to work with the Syrian Kurdish PYD group - which has links to the PKK - provided it did not pose a threat to Turkey and severed relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey launched air strikes against IS targets in Syria and against PKK camps in northern Iraq following recent attacks.

In a suicide attack blamed on IS, 32 people died in in the Kurdish-majority city of Suruc near the Syrian border on 20 July.

Armed left wing militants escort the coffins of victims of a suicide bomb attack in Suruc, as they arrive at Gazi Cemevi an Alevi district of gazi, July 21, 2015 in Istanbul.

Left wing militants escort the coffins of victims of a suicide bomb attack in Suruc, as they arrive at Gazi Cemevi an Alevi district of gazi, in Istanbul. Photo: AFP

In the wake of the bombing, the PKK killed Turkish police in retaliation for what it saw as Turkey's collaboration with IS.

However, the raids against the PKK in northern Iraq effectively ended a two-year ceasefire.

Turkish jets were again in action over northern Iraq on Sunday, and a PKK spokesman told AFP news agency that two positions north of Dohuk and north of Irbil had been hit.

Earlier, a car bomb hit a Turkish military vehicle on a highway near Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey, the army said.

Kurdish militants then opened fire on the vehicle killing two soldiers and wounding four others, it added.

Istanbul Police Department's Anti-Terrorism Unit conducts an air-supported anti-terror operation across Istanbul on 24 July 2015.

Istanbul Police Department's Anti-Terrorism Unit conducts an air-supported anti-terror operation across Istanbul. Photo: Ahmet Dumanli / Anadolu Agency

In recent days, Turkey has also arrested hundreds of people suspected of supporting IS or the PKK.

Police raids in the city of Istanbul have triggered three days of rioting in the Gazi district. At least one activist and a policeman have been killed.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told BBC World TV the Turkish request was based on Article 4 of the NATO Treaty which allows members to request such a meeting if their territorial integrity or security is threatened.

"When Turkey requests for such a meeting, I think it's very right and very timely to have a meeting where we address the turmoil and the instability we see in Syria, Iraq and surrounding and close to NATO borders of Turkey," he said.

Mr Stoltenberg said he had spoken to Mr Davutoglu two days ago, expressing condolences for the loss of life and giving backing to Turkey's actions against IS.

The US has called on both Turkey and the PKK to avoid violence, but said Turkey had the right to defend itself against attacks by Kurdish rebels.

- BBC