Turkey attacks IS and PKK targets, but will not send in ground troops

27.07.2015

Forced after months of hesitation to take decisive action against Islamic State jihadists, Turkey has seized the chance to also attack Kurdish militants in strikes that put a fragile peace process at risk.

Turkey has been pounding IS targets inside Syria since Friday, after blaming the group for a suicide bombing that killed 32 people and in the face of sustained US pressure to take a more aggressive stance against the jihadists.

But Turkey has also expanded the cross-border campaign to target the Kurdistan Workers Party's (PKK) military forces in northern Iraq, its biggest such bombing raids since 2011, following deadly attacks blamed on the Kurdish separatists.

Ankara has lumped both campaigns together into a broad "war on terror", even though the secular PKK and Islamist IS are themselves bitterly opposed.  Analysts say the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to score points with voters after its disappointing performance in the election on 7 June and also prevent Kurds gaining a strong foothold in Syria.

Turkey regards the PKK, which has waged a deadly insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, as a terror group and the main Syrian Kurdish group fighting IS – the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – as the PKK's Syrian branch.

With Turkey finally allowing the US to carry out anti-IS strikes from its Incirlik airbase, Ankara hopes for a "quid-pro-quo" that will see the United States distance itself from the PKK-linked PYD in Syria, said David Romano, Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University.

According to the Kremlin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday discussed the situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, and better co-operation in fighting Islamic State. During a telephone conversation, both sides stressed that all interested states should boost efforts to successfully combat the spread of terrorism and extremism, the Kremlin said in a statement.

On Monday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying Turkey will not send ground troops into neighbouring Syria where it has been bombing Islamic State positions, a campaign that could "change the balance" in the region. "We will not send ground forces," Davutoglu told a group of Turkish newspaper editors according to the daily newspaper "Hurriyet". "We do not want to see Daesh on our border," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the IS jihadists.    (AFP/ Reuters)

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