We also read that Iran is letting Iranian Kurds join the fight in Syria. Assad is trying to woo the Kurds into an alliance also. Ted Belman
ANKARA: After embarking on a peace process with Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Ankara is now softening its position on the increasingly autonomous Kurdish minority in war-torn neighboring Syria, analysts say. The Turkish government has long kept a wary eye on Kurdish ambitions in Syria, fearing the creation of a Kurdish state there could serve as a magnet for Turkey’s own Kurdish population.
Ankara’s unease only increased after Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces last year withdrew from majority Kurdish areas in the north of the embattled country and entrusted the security there to Kurdish militia.
At the time, Turkish newspapers published alarming pictures of Kurdish flags fluttering from buildings and reported that parts of the area had fallen into the hands of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or its Syrian branch, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
But since then the Turkish government has signaled a willingness for dialogue with the PYD instead of viewing the group as a threat, observers say.
The policy shift comes amid fears of a power vacuum in Syria’s north, and mounting concern that Turkey, an outspoken supporter of the rebels fighting to oust Assad, could be seen to be backing Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels, experts say.
“What’s Turkey’s alternative?” asked Ilter Turan, a professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University. “The channels for Turkey’s leaders to have an influence in Syria are closed unless they have dialogue with Syrian Kurds, especially after it has become clear it will not be that easy to topple Assad.”
In a sign of the changing times, PYD leader Saleh Muslim was invited to Istanbul for high-profile talks late last month, during which he said Turkey had promised to start providing humanitarian aid to Kurds in Syria. “I can say that Turkey has changed its attitude toward the PYD. The simple fact that I am here already shows the biggest change,” Muslim said afterward.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the new approach to Syria’s Kurds was in line with a policy change at home, where Turkish authorities are in talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to end the nearly three-decade insurgency that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
“There is nothing more natural than re-evaluating our approach toward the PYD amid the ongoing peace process in Turkey,” Davutoglu said in a television interview Friday.
At the talks with Muslim, Turkey warned the PYD against any “dangerous actions” such as a push for autonomy in the border region.
Easing their suspicions, the PYD leader said in remarks carried by the Milliyet newspaper that his movement had no intention of proclaiming independence, but that the Kurds needed to “be in charge of the region temporarily” while awaiting “a political solution in which everyone – Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs – finds their place.”
Kurds in Syria make up 10 percent of the population and are mostly concentrated in the north.