Turkey will not say ‘yes’ to US arms transfers to Kurdish fighters: Erdogan

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Turkey wants US-led coalition to widen campaign against militants by providing greater aid to Syrian rebels, who are battling both IS and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces

Turkey will not agree to any arms transfers by United States of America to Kurdish fighters who are battling Islamic militants in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted saying Sunday, as the extremist group fired more mortar rounds near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Turkey views the Syrian-Kurdish group Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing which is fighting Islamic State (IS) militants, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the US and NATO.

The US has said recently that it has engaged in intelligence sharing with Kurdish fighters and officials have not ruled out future arms transfers to the Kurdish fighters.

“The PYD is for us, equal to the PKK. It is a terror organisation,” Erdogan told a group of reporters on his return from a visit to Afghanistan.

“It would be wrong for the US – with whom we are friends and allies in NATO – to expect us to say ‘yes’ to such a support to a terrorist organisation,” a foreign news agency quoted Erdogan.

Turkey’s opposition to arms transfers to the Kurdish forces is hampering the US-led coalitions’ efforts to fight extremists and further complicating US-Turkey relations. The countries are involved in negotiations about Ankara’s role with the US and NATO allies fighting the IS, which is attempting to capture the strategic town Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Turkey is demanding that the coalition widen its campaign against the militants by providing greater aid to Syrian rebels, who are battling both IS and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Turkey has so far provided sanctuary to an estimated 200,000 Syrians fleeing Kobani, and recently agreed to train and equip moderate Syrian rebel fighters trying to oust Assad.

KURDISH FIGTERS CONTINUE TO FIGHT IS MILITANTS:

In the meanwhile, fighting between IS militants and Kurdish fighters defending Kobani continued Sunday. Three mortars also fell on the Turkish side of the border, landing in an open field where they caused no injuries. IS appeared to be targeting the border crossing area, potentially in a bid to hamper Kobani’s last link to the outside world.

In an attempt to stave off the advance, a US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes on IS positions in and near the town, as well as in other parts of Syria, particularly in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour, as well as in Iraq. Several airstrikes hit Kobani on Saturday evening.

The flow of migrants into Turkey has intensified since IS intensified its push to take Kobani and cut access for Kurdish fighters to other areas of Syria they control.

UN ENVOY VISITS SYRIAN REFUGEES:

Meanwhile, United Nations’ humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited one of the refugee camps set up in a school in the Turkish border town of Suruc.

While 900,000 people have been registered as refugees in Turkey since the Syrian crisis began four years ago, “the reality is that the numbers are nearer to 1.6 million,” Amos said, adding, “The international community has to continue to do all it can to find a political solution to this crisis.”