Turkey must stop targeting Syrian Kurds, shift focus to the war on ISIS: UK Foreign Affairs Committee

Published by ARA News 25 March 2016

ERBIL – The United Kingdom must press Turkey to refrain from taking any further action against Kurdish YPG forces in Syria, and play a constructive role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), said the House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee in a report on Thursday.

“President Erdoğan’s increasingly shameful domestic priorities and repressive policies have driven the PYD (Syria’s main Kurdish party/grouping) and its associated YPG militia into the arms of the Syrian regime and Russia,” the report said.

“Since Syrian Kurdish forces have proved effective allies in the fight against ISIL [ISIS], this is working directly against shared international priorities,” the report added.

According to the report, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and the associated People’s Protection Units (YPG), have proved effective allies in the fight against ISIS in Syria. “Nevertheless, in February, with talks on the brink, Turkey conducted artillery barrages and airstrikes on YPG forces in northern Syria,” the report said.

The committee also said it is not acceptable for the UK to ignore abuses of the Turkish state against Kurds in return for Turkish co-operation on EU migration priorities.

Therefore, the report called on the UK government to “press Turkey to refrain from taking any further action against YPG forces and play a constructive role towards shared objectives in the defeat of ISIS.

“It is not acceptable for the UK, in return for Turkish co-operation on EU migration priorities as per the deal agreed on 18 March, to turn a blind eye towards the brutal Turkish government suppression of legitimate Kurdish aspirations at home and in neighbouring states, which is almost certainly illegal and involves a grossly disproportionate use of force,” the report added.

In oral evidence for the report, experts on the Kurds suggested Turkey is undermining the fight against the Islamic State by focusing just on the Kurds, and the YPG–which is accused of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“It is absolutely undermining the ability of the PKK/HPG/YPG—however you want to call these different PKK fighting formations on that side—to prosecute the fight against ISIS,” said Gareth Stansfield, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter, in his witness testimony.

“It is both in military terms—the PKK is having to redeploy, either back to Qandil or into south-east Anatolia—but also in straightforward diplomatic terms,” he added.

“The Syrian Kurds and especially the YPG are increasingly more concerned about the threat that Turkey poses to them, rather than the threat that Raqqa and other places may pose to them going forward. It affects them diplomatically in terms of inclusion in the different talks, such as Geneva III,” Stansfield said.

Experts also suggest Turkey sees a bigger threat in the Kurds rather than in Jihadist factions such as the Islamic State. Therefore, they called on the West to solve the differences between Kurds.

“To bring Turkey more on board, it is necessary to help Turkey and the Kurds solve their problems. The West, including the EU and the US, did not play its role when there was a peace process in Turkey with the Kurds,” said analyst Güney Yıldız, an analyst focusing on Kurds, Turkey, and Syria.

“The two sides need to be brought together, because Turkey used to have better relations with Syrian Kurds,” he told ARA News.

The analyst suggested that for Turkey and the Kurds, the problems are so difficult to solve among themselves that they clearly need external help.

“The UK [government] should spearhead raising with Turkey their behaviour on the Kurdish issue, their support for Islamist groups, and the suppression of internal dissent and freedom of speech,” the report concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News