Syria's ceasefire 'not binding' on Turkey

A Syrian girl rides a bus towards Turkey from Syria, Feb 10, 2016.
A Syrian girl rides a bus towards Turkey from Syria, Feb 10, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Turkish PM says that if his country's security is threatened, then it won't respect truce

ANKARA • Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday said a ceasefire agreed between Syria's warring parties was only valid inside Syria and was "not binding" on his country if its national security was threatened.

"It must be known that the ceasefire is valid in Syria," Mr Davutoglu said in televised remarks.

"When it is a question of Turkey's security, then the ceasefire is not binding for us," he added.

Turkey on successive days last week targeted Kurdish fighters inside Syria with artillery barrages, saying the army was responding to incoming fire. It has also repeatedly said it reserved the right to open fire again.

Russia and the US have set a deadline of midnight Damascus time today for the "cessation of hostilities" between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebel forces.

The deal, which marks the biggest diplomatic push yet to help end the five-year conflict in Syria, excludes the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group and other Sunni extremists.

NATIONAL SECURITY COMES FIRST

When it is a question of Turkey's security, then the ceasefire is not binding for us.

TURKISH PRIME MINISTER AHMET DAVUTOGLU

Syria's opposition has indicated it is ready for a two-week truce, saying it is a chance to test the seriousness of the government's commitment to a cessation of hostilities.

Mr Davutoglu said Turkey would closely monitor how the ceasefire is implemented.

Turkey has demanded that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People's Protection Units (YPG) militia should remain outside the scope of the truce.

It sees both as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

"To us, YPG is a terrorist organisation the same as (ISIS) and (Al-Qaeda affiliate) Al-Nusra," the Prime Minister said.

"There is no terror reference to YPG in the ceasefire. There should have been but there is not."

A militant Kurdish group claimed a suicide car bomb that killed 29 people in the capital Ankara last week but Turkish officials said the bomber was a Syrian Kurd working on behalf of the PYD, which has denied being behind the attack.

Mr Davutoglu yesterday said if it was a case of Turkey's security being at stake, "we do not get permission from anyone, we do not ask anyone but we do what's required".

He warned the YPG and the PKK "not to support terror in Turkey" just because of the Syria ceasefire.

"When it's a question of the security measures Turkey will take, the only place to have a say is Ankara."

He also said that Saudi planes, due to take part in air strikes against ISIS, were expected to arrive at Turkey's Incirlik Air Base "today or tomorrow".

Dogan news agency cited army sources as saying Saudi F-15 warplanes would arrive at Incirlik today, and that C-130 cargo planes had been shipping military mate- riel to Incirlik for the past two days.

Separately, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the YPG, like ISIS, sought to divide Syria.

"The aim of the PYD and YPG is clear: just like (ISIS), they want to divide Syria to form their own management," he said in an interview broadcast live on television.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'Syria's ceasefire 'not binding' on Turkey'. Print Edition | Subscribe