Middle East

Turkey to take 'necessary measures' on border security: Davutoglu

Turkish Kurds gather near the Mursitpinar border gate in solidarity with Syrian Kurds in Kobani, in Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 27, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA: Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey was prepared for all necessary measures to tackle security threats along its borders, highlighting Ankara's growing anxiety about conflict near its southern frontier in Syria.

He was speaking on television late Sunday, ahead of Monday's meeting of a National Security Council meeting, where Syria was expected to top the agenda, and as local media reported Ankara was considering military steps to counter security risks from Syria.

Syrian Kurdish forces secured the town of Kobani near the Turkish border over the weekend, beating back ISIS militants.

Ankara has looked askance as the Syrian Kurds have made military advances against Islamic militants, fearing the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state in Syrian territory that would further embolden Turkey's own 14 million Kurds.

President Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday Turkey would never allow formation of a Kurdish state along its southern borders.

Erdogan was chairing a regular meeting of the National Security Council Monday afternoon and his comments on the issue will be closely watched.

"If any harm is to come to Turkey's border security, if Turkey reaches the conclusion that this garden of peace is being threatened, it is prepared for any eventuality," Davutoglu said in comments broadcast late Sunday.

"We will take the necessary measures to reduce the risks related to cross-border security."

The pro-government Star newspaper said a possible cross-border operation would be considered at the national security council meeting, citing unnamed sources.

One option that could be considered was the creation of a 110 km (70 mile) "secure zone" within Syria, the newspaper said.

Saban Disli, an adviser to Davutoglu, told Reuters the meeting was likely to result in a change in the Turkish military's rules of engagement, describing advances of both Kurdish forces and ISIS militants as "dangerous."

He did not say how the rules could be changed. However, the pro-government Sabah newspaper said policy could be altered to allow Turkish forces to attack ISIS fighters who near the border. Currently, Turkish forces retaliate in kind against any attack from Syrian territory.

"Turkey will not take any unilateral step on the Syrian side independent of the international coalition. We have a clear stance on this," a senior government official told Reuters.

"But we have our sensitivity on border gates not coming under the control of ISIL (ISIS) or the PYD (Kurdish forces)."

Military action would likely enrage Turkey's Kurdish minority at a time when the peace process between Ankara and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has stalled.

A senior PKK commander, Murat Karayilan, told a Kurdish news website Monday the group would retaliate if the military intervened in Kurdish areas of Syria. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.

Brokerage Finansbank said in a note to clients that given Turkey's current political uncertainty - Davutoglu's AK Party still needs to find a junior partner to form a government following its election setback this month - any intervention would likely be limited.

"We remain doubtful that a 'lame duck' government could undertake anything more than a 'targeted' operation that would be limited in both scale and scope," it said.

"However, following Erdogan's strong statement, the situation is clearly worth monitoring closely."

 

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