Turkey says aiding Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross into Kobane

Kurdish people watch the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, from the Turkish border in the south-eastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province on Oct 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Kurdish people watch the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, from the Turkish border in the south-eastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province on Oct 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey said on Monday it was assisting Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross its border to join Syrian Kurdish forces battling militants for the Syrian town of Kobane.

"We are assisting peshmerga forces to cross into Kobane," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara, adding that talks on the issue were ongoing but without giving further details.

"We have no wish at all to see Kobane fall" to the militants, he added.

The announcement represented a major switch by Turkey, which until now has refused to allow Kurdish fighters to cross its border to join the battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants for Kobane.

It also came after the American military dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been battling militants for Kobane for over a month.

Cavusoglu did not give a direct comment on the air drops, saying only that Turkey was now "evaluating" the latest move by the United States.

But he also did not give any indication that Turkey was angered by the air drops, as many commentators had expected.

"We have been in full cooperation with the coalition. We want to be rid of all the threats in the region," the minister said.

Turkish security forces have been waging a 30-year conflict with the Kurdish fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose battle for self-rule in the southeast has left 40,000 dead.

However Turkey in the last years has built up strong relations with the Kurdish authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq who control the peshmerga forces.

It appears that despite the agreement over the peshmerga, Turkey will still block any PKK fighters from entering Syria.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had at the weekend rejected calls for Turkey to arm the main Kurdish party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), saying "just as the PKK... it's a terrorist organisation." Turkey has come under increasing pressure over the last month to step up its support for the international coalition fighting the ISIS militants.

But Ankara has so far refused to use its own troops or even let US forces launch their bombing raids on IS from the Incirlik air base in the nearby Adana province.

The Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported earlier that Turkey had responded positively to the request from Massoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, to allow peshmerga forces pass through Turkish territory.