ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday Turkey would not allow what he called “terrorist” groups like the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or al Qaeda to establish a presence in Syria near the Turkish border.
Davutoglu did not specify what steps Turkey could take to prevent activities by such groups along its 911-km (566-mile) frontier with Syria, which is in the throes of 16-month crackdown on a popular uprising that has claimed 17,000 lives.
“We will not permit a terrorist group, whether it is the PKK or al Qaeda, to set up at our border. This has nothing to do with ethnicity,” Davutoglu said in a live interview with Kanal 24 television channel.
“No one should wait for Turkey to take unnecessary risks, no matter what the situation is. But if there is a terrorist structure targeting our border security, taking measures is our right and our duty,” he said.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey could act against a “terrorist” organization in northern Syria if it perceived it as a threat -- a warning to Kurdish militants believed to be active in the region.
Erdogan’s talk of a possible intervention marked a new escalation in tensions between Turkey and Syria, at odds since President Bashar al-Assad failed to heed Ankara’s calls to quit to make way for a political transition.
“We want the transition in Syria to be complete as soon as possible,” Davutoglu said.
The comments from Erdogan and Davutoglu also indicate the government’s concern about the growing influence of Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is linked with the PKK.
The PKK has waged a 27-year armed campaign for autonomy in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, which borders the area where the PYD is based. Some 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died in the violence.
Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley and Tulay Karadeniz; Editing by Mark Heinrich