BEIRUT: A Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State in Syria accused Turkey on Saturday of targeting it at least four times in the past week and called on U.S-led forces to “clarify” their approach towards Ankara in light of this.
The accusations highlight the tensions surrounding Turkey’s entry into the fight against Islamic State. It made a turnaround last week by granting U.S-led forces access to its air bases and bombarding targets in Syria linked to Islamic State.
At the same time, Ankara has renewed a military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG, which regularly coordinates with U.S.-led air forces bombing Islamic State, said it had nothing to do with violence between the PKK and Turkish state.
“Despite our official announcement that we are not part of what is happening … the Turkish military monitors and targets our units,” it said in a statement on its website.
Turkish officials have previously said Syrian Kurdish forces remain outside the scope of their military efforts.
The YPG had already accused the Turkish army of shelling its positions from across the border last Sunday. The latest statement said it came under cross-border fire on four occasions and described sightings of Turkish jets over northern Syria.
“We consider recent movements of the Turkish military as provocative and hostile actions,” the statement said.
“We ask our partners in the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS to clarify their approach towards these actions of the Turkish military.”
Commenting on the previous accusation, a senior Turkish official had said the Turkish army had shot back after it came under cross-border fire but said it was unclear which group was involved and stressed the YPG was not a target.
In that incident, the YPG said the Turkish army had shelled its positions in a village on the outskirts of the Islamic State-held border town of Jarablus.
In the new accusations, the YPG said Turkish tanks bombarded a position used by YPG and a Syrian rebel group in Zor Maghar village west of Kobani on July 24, wounding four rebels and a number of civilians.
It said in another incident the Turkish army fired on a YPG vehicle in Tel Fender village, west of Tal Abyad, a town close to one of the border crossings.
Turkey’s renewed military campaign against the PKK, including bombarding PKK camps in Iraq, has raised suspicions that its real agenda is checking Kurdish territorial ambitions rather than fighting Islamic State.
In Syria, the YPG is an important force for the U.S.-led alliance against Islamic State because it has been the only notable partner so far on the ground working with the coalition.
But the group has links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, creating an uneasy compromise between Washington and Ankara.
Ankara is concerned that advances by the YPG could stoke separatist sentiment among its own Kurds and embolden the PKK.