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A handout picture taken and released on June 29, 2015 by the Turkish Presidential Palace Press Office shows Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan heading the National Security Council meeting in Ankara. (AFP)
Monday, 29 June 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chaired a top security meeting Monday as media speculated that Ankara was planning a military intervention in Syria, following gains there by Kurds against the militants.
The regular National Security Council meeting comes days after Erdogan said he would “never allow” the formation of a Kurdish state along Turkey’s southern borders.
A statement issued after the four-hour meeting said that the members had “thoroughly assessed” the events taking place in Syria as well as “possible threats” and “additional security measures” along the border.
“Concerns have been voiced over actions targeting the civilians in the region and aimed at changing the region’s demographic structure,” said the council, which brings together top military officials.
On Saturday, two days after an attack by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants that left more than 200 civilians dead, Kurdish forces drove the militants out of Kobane - a highly symbolic border town which Kurds had wrested from ISIS in January.
The ISIS attack was widely seen as vengeance for a series of defeats at the hands of Kurdish militia, particularly the militants’ loss of Tal Abyad, another border town further east, on June 16.
The Kurds’ advance has alarmed Turkish officials, who accuse the YPG of seeking to unite Kurdish-majority areas of Syria and fear the growing power of Kurdish forces there will embolden Turkey’s 15-million strong Kurdish minority.
Kurdish forces now control around 400 kilometres (250 miles) of contiguous border territory from Kobane in Aleppo province to northeastern Syria.
“I say to the international community that whatever price must be paid, we will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said Friday.
Turkish media subsequently speculated that Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had earlier in the week asked the military to send soldiers into Syria.
The press claimed that the military high command demanded a written order from the new government, which is yet to be formed after recent elections.
The pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper said the operation would involve around 18,000 ground forces, artillery and air support on a stretch of land spanning from Kobane in the east to an area further west held by the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army.
Davutoglu warned Sunday that Ankara would take “necessary measures” against security threats on its borders, saying “our country is prepared for any eventuality”.
Citing anonymous sources, the pro-government Star newspaper also said on Monday that a possible cross-border operation would include the creation of a 110 km (68 mile) long “secure zone” within Syria.
Turkey has fought a 31-year insurgency in its southeast by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara claims is closely linked to the YPG militia, and peace talks are ongoing.
Last Update: Monday, 29 June 2015 KSA 22:44 - GMT 19:44