Daily Israel Report

Growing Kurdish Autonomy In Syria Has The Turks Rattled

While Ankara would like to see the demise of the al-Assad regime, it is casting a wary eye on growing Kurdish assertiveness in Syria
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 8/6/2012, 12:43 AM

Erdogan at London Olympics
Erdogan at London Olympics
Reuters

Turkey is playing a major role in undermining the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Asad, but the threat to the regime is resulting in a complication for Ankara in the form of strengthening the Kurds in Syria.

The Syrian Kurds are officially striving for autonomy similar to the status that the Kurds enjoy in Iraq. The Turkish fear is that having a border with a Kurdish autonomy in both Syria and Iraq will reinforce the Kurdish insurgency within Turkey itself. This threat was brought home in a raid by the Kurdish PKK guerrillas that resulted in the death of 6 Turkish soldiers and 2 village guards.

On the one hand, Turkey has to officially welcome any weakening of the central regime in Damascus and salute the Kurdish actions in Syria as coming under the heading of civil rights. On the other hand, the Turks are concerned about the links between the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union party and the PKK.

One attempt by Ankara to reconcile the problem is to label the PKK as acting parallel to [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad's massacre in Aleppo" in carrying out the raids - and during the holy month of Ramadan to boot. This was the line voiced by the Deputy Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Ömer Çelik.

The attempt to link the PKK to Assad was also made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan. who accused Damascus of allowing Kurdish rebels a free hand and promised that Turkey could handle both the terrorists and their puppet masters.

In a parallel development,Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq for talks with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani that focused on the situation in Syria. In a joint statement the two concluded: "The new Syria should be free of any terrorist and extremist group or organization,"

Turkey has tried to buttress relations with Barzani by investing in the Kurdish autonomy and serving as a hub for the export of oil and natural gas from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Another Iraqi Kurd. Minister Falah Mustafa. speaking to diplomats in Erbil promised ""We will not interfere in the internal matters of Syria. The future and makeup of Syria must be decided by the Syrian people," the minister added, while stressing at the same time that the Kurdish people of Syria should have their rights recognized and be treated as equal citizens. 

A leader of the Syrian Kurds also tried to allay Turkish suspicions. Speaking on the Voice of America's Kurdish service. Saleh Muhammad Muslim said "We are not Turkey’s enemies and we don’t want to become their enemies."

Erdogan has warned that a PKK foothold in Syria would be a casus belli for Ankara.