Turkey says Syria ceasefire is not binding if it threatens security

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that Turkey would not be bound by the Syrian ceasefire plan if its security was threatened, and would take “necessary measures” against the Syrian Kurdish YPG and Islamic State if needed.

Kurdish members of the Self-Defense Forces stand near the Syrian-Turkish border in the Syrian city of al-Derbasiyah during a protest against the operations launched in Turkey by government security forces against the Kurds, February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

The ceasefire process, initiated by Russia and the United States, could be complicated by NATO member Turkey’s deep distrust of the Washington-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which controls territory in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group and fears it will further stoke unrest among its own Kurdish population.

“The ceasefire is not binding for us when there is a situation that threatens Turkey’s security; we will take necessary measures against both the YPG and Daesh when we feel the need to,” Davutoglu said in comments broadcast live on CNN Turk television. “Daesh” is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“Ankara is the only place that decides actions regarding Turkey’s security,” he said.

Syria’s opposition has indicated it is ready for a two-week truce, saying it is a chance to test the sincerity of the Syrian government in accepting the deal.

The YPG told Reuters on Wednesday it would respect a ceasefire, but reserved the right to respond if attacked. Turkey has shelled YPG positions in Syria in recent weeks, saying it was retaliating to cross-border fire.


Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the YPG and its political wing, the PYD, sought to carve up Syria.

“Just like Daesh, they want to divide Syria to form their own management,” Cavusoglu told the Anadolu Agency in an interview broadcast live on television.

He also said that Saudi planes, due to take part in air strikes against Islamic State, were expected to arrive at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base “today or tomorrow”.

The Dogan news agency cited army sources as saying Saudi F-15s would arrive at Incirlik on Friday.

Turkey regards the YPG as a sister organisation to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in which 40,000 people have been killed. The PKK, which wants autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds, is seen as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

A ceasefire between the PKK and the state collapsed in July and since then Turkey’s security forces have killed hundreds of PKK members, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians in the process.

In the latest operations, conducted in the Idil district of Sirnak province near the borders with Syria and Iraq, security forces killed 20 PKK militants, the army said on Thursday.

One Turkish soldier was killed in the Sur district of Diyarbakir, where a curfew has been in place for more than three months.

Amnesty International this week said human rights had deteriorated sharply in Turkey’s Kurdish areas, estimating that 200,000 civilians had been affected by curfews.

“Civilians are unable to access basic rights of life, from food to education to emergency medical care,” Ruhat Sena Aksener, Amnesty International’s director of campaigns in Turkey, said in an interview.

Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay and Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Kevin Liffey