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Turkish PM: No plans to send ground troops into Syria

Turkey has no plans to send ground troops into Syria to fight the Islamic State group, the prime minister says.

But Ahmet Davutoglu said air strikes on IS positions close to the Syria/Turkey border and on Kurdish PKK separatists in Iraq could “change the game”.

Turkey’s actions are in response to violent attacks last week in Turkey itself, including the death of 32 activists in a bombing in Suruc.

Nato is to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the main Syrian Kurdish party, on Monday urged Turkey to stop its attacks on Kurdish units inside Syria.

‘Turmoil and instability’

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

Turkish checkpoint in Diyarbakir on 26 July 2015
Turkish troops set up checkpoints following a militant attack near Diyarbakir

“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.

Turkey – a Nato member – has requested Tuesday’s meeting based on Article 4 of the organisation’s founding 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,” Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC.

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

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


The week that changed Turkey

  • Monday: Thirty-two people are killed by IS-linked militants in the Kurdish-majority town of Suruc, near the border with Syria
  • Thursday: IS forces shoot dead a Turkish border guard
  • Meanwhile, the PKK reportedly kills two Turkish police officers in retaliation for Suruc and what it sees as Turkey’s collaboration with IS
  • Friday: Hundreds of suspected IS supporters are arrested and properties are searched; Turkish F-16 jets 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 a ceasefire
  • Sunday: Car bomb attack on a military convoy in Lice in Diyarbakir provincekills two soldiers as strikes on targets in Iraq and Syria continue
Map showing Turkey, Syria, Iraq
Makeshift barricades fill the streets as left-wing protesters light a fire trying to avoid tear gas used by police to disperse them, in Istanbul, (26 July 2015)
There have been clashes between protesters and police in Istanbul
Turkish soldiers, army officers and officials stand at attention next to the coffins of soldiers Mehmet Kocak and Ismail Yavuz, during a ceremony in Diyarbakir, Turkey (26 July 2015)
Two Turkish soldiers were killed near Diyarbakir on Sunday

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

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

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.


Kurdish acronyms:

  • PKK: Kurdistan Workers’ Party – Turkish Kurdish party led by Abdullah Ocalan (jailed since 1999)
  • PYD: Democratic Unity Party – PKK-aligned party in Syria
  • YPG: Popular Protection Units – PYD-aligned armed force in Syria
  • KRG: Kurdistan Regional Government – the official governing body of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq
  • KDP: Kurdistan Democratic Party – the dominant Iraqi Kurdish party, led by Massoud Barzani

In a statement on Monday, the YPG said Turkish tanks had shelled the Kurdish-held village of Zormikhar inside Syria late on Sunday evening and an hour later one of its vehicles “came under heavy fire from the Turkish military east of Kobane in the village of Til Findire”.

It said: “Instead of targeting IS terrorists’ occupied positions, Turkish forces attack our defenders’ positions. This is not the right attitude.

“We urge Turkish leadership to halt this aggression and to follow international guidelines. We are telling the Turkish Army to stop shooting at our fighters and their positions.”

Turkey said it was investigating the reports.

A government official said the YPG’s political wing was “outside the scope of the current military effort”, which sought to target IS and the PKK.


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