A senior Syrian Kurdish official on Friday, Oct 24, rejected a report from Turkey’s president that Syrian Kurds had agreed to let Free Syrian Army fighters enter the border town of Kobani to help them push back besieging Islamic State insurgents, Reuters reported.
The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such as Islamic State.
Erdogan said on Friday said 1,300 FSA fighters would enter Kobani after the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) agreed on their passage, but his comments were swiftly denied by Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the PYD.
“We have already established a connection with FSA but no such agreement has been reached yet as Mr. Erdogan has mentioned,” Moslem told Reuters by telephone from Brussels.
Turkey’s unwillingness to send its powerful army across the Syrian border to break the siege of Kobani has angered Kurds, and seems rooted in a concern not to strengthen Kurds who seek autonomy in adjoining regions of Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
Ankara’s stance has also upset Western allies, as Islamic State’s capture of wide swathes of Syria and Iraq has caused international shock and U.S.-led air strikes began in August to try to halt and eventually reverse the jihadist advance.
Erdogan told a news conference on a visit to Estonia that Ankara was working on details of the route of passage for the FSA fighters, indicating they would access Kobani via Turkey.
But Moslem said talks between FSA commander Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi and the armed wing of the Kurdish PYD were continuing about the possible role of FSA rebels. “There are already groups with links to the FSA in Kobani helping us,” he said.
FSA commander Al-Oqaidi, speaking to Reuters in Suruc, a Turkish border town across from Kobani, said there had been an agreement to begin establishing a united defense force and initially 1,350 FSA fighters were to go to Kobani for help.
“These fighters will come in two or three days,” he said. “The fighters will come from the northern Syrian countryside. These fighters are not coming from the fighting fronts against the Assad regime. These are reserve fighters.”
U.S. officials said on Thursday that Kobani, nestled in a valley overlooked by Turkish territory, seemed in less danger of falling to Islamic State after coalition air strikes and limited arms drops, but the threat remained.
Moslem said he was disappointed with Turkey’s response so far. “When I conducted my meetings in Turkey, I was hoping the help would come in 24 hours. It’s been more than a month and we’re still waiting,” he said.
In a separate interview published in a pan-Arab newspaper, Moslem said that the battle for Kobani would turn into a war of attrition unless Kurds obtained arms that can repel tanks and armored vehicles.
He told Asharq al-Awsat that Kurds had recently received information that Islamic State wanted to fire chemical weapons into Kobani using mortars, after having surrounded it with around 40 tanks.