Turkey PM confirms retaliation to shelling

Prime minister says military responded to artillery attack from Kurdish positions in Syria

Turkey PM confirms retaliation to shelling

World Bulletin / News Desk

Turkey’s prime minister on Saturday confirmed Turkish troops shelled Kurdish positions in Syria in retaliation.

Ahmet Davutoglu said the army returned artillery fire after coming under attack from Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces based around Azaz in northern Syria.

He stressed that the response was within Turkey’s rules of engagement.

Earlier, a military source told Anadolu Agency the Akcabaglar base in Kilis province was shelled by “PYD/PKK” forces -- referring to the Syrian Kurdish group and its affiliate PKK, which has waged war on Turkey since 1984. Ankara considers both as terrorist groups.

Azaz in Aleppo province has been the scene of recent heavy fighting and the PYD’s armed wing, the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), have advanced to Azaz -- just 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Turkish border.

Davutoglu demanded the YPG withdraw from Azaz and the nearby Menagh military air base and warned the group against using either as a base to attack Turkey or Syrian opposition forces.

“The YPG has blood in their hands,” he said. “It is a terrorist organization. It is a group that cooperates with and compliments Russia on the ground.”

The premier said Ankara would respond to the YPG’s cross-border activities. “We will take every necessary step to ensure an environment that guarantees Turkey’s security, an environment without ISIL, the Syrian regime or the PYD,” he told a news conference in Erzincan, northeast Turkey.

Davutoglu said he had informed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of Turkey’s concerns in a telephone call, adding the Biden had said he would pass his remarks on to the “relevant parties”. The U.S. supports the YPG in Syria.

He also said Aleppo, Syria’s second biggest city, had been under siege since last week, when the humanitarian aid corridor between Turkey and the city was cut off by a Russian-backed government offensive.

- 'Forces using PYD' -

In an apparent reference to Russia, the prime minister said “forces using the PYD” had sought to cause a “massive refugee influx” towards Turkey. He added that Ankara was ready to take further measures to defend its borders.

Referring to last Monday’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Davutoglu said they had “agreed that the latest attacks on Aleppo targeted Turkey, and through Turkey, Europe.”

Around 2.7 million Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey since the civil war began and the latest offensive has seen tens of thousands more flock to the Turkish border.

“Meetings between Russia and the U.S. continue,” Davutoglu said.” And behold, after every meeting, the siege on Aleppo gets tighter and the number of refugees coming from Aleppo increases.”

He added: “Somebody needs to draw a line against Russia and raise their voice.”

In an admonition to the international community, Davutoglu accused it of complicity in Russia’s attacks on civilians.

“The international community that cannot say ‘stop’ to the ones who are air bombarding to displace hundreds of thousands of people have unfortunately become the partners of the crime in Syria today,” he said.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby urged Turkey to halt its cross-border artillery fire and called on the YPG and its affiliated forces “not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory”.

He added: “‎Turkey and the YPG share a serious threat of ISIL poised just to the east of the Azaz corridor. We continue to encourage all parties to focus on this common threat, which has not subsided, and to work towards a cessation of hostilities.”

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Şubat 2016, 09:36