01/27/2015, 00.00
TURKEY - SYRIA
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Kurdish victory in Kobane worries Erdogan

The Islamic state had threatened the city since September. Some 1,800 people died in the fighting with tens of thousands made refugees. Turkey's ambiguity stems from its fear that a Kurdish autonomous region might emerge in northern Syria.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Thousands of people took to the streets in Istanbul, even more so in the cities of Diyarbakir and Hakkari, in Turkey's Kurdish southeast region, to celebrate the Kurdish victory in the city of Kobane against Islamic State (IS) forces.

The turn of events has made Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan none too happy. The Turkish leader opposes the idea of a Kurdish-controlled autonomous government in northern Syria, like that in northern Iraq.

"We do not want a new Iraq. What's this? Northern Iraq," Erdogan told the Hurriyet newspaper, referring to the Kurdish-controlled part of Iraq known as Iraqi Kurdistan.

"A northern Syria there after northern Iraq. . . It is not possible for us to accept this," he said. "Such formations will lead to grave problems in the future."

Since last September, the city of Kobane, near the border with Turkey, has been the scene of relentless fighting between Kurdish and Islamic State forces.

During the battle, which saw the intervention of Iraqi peshmerga and air strikes by the US-led coalition, more than 1,800 people died, including more than a thousand IS fighters.

Because of the fighting, tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians - old men, women, and children - fled to Turkey.

Yesterday, reports touted a Kurdish victory with most of the city falling under peshmerga control. However, throughout the battle, Turkey held an ambiguous position.

On the one hand, it tried to slow the entry into its territory of refugees from Kobane, and refused to take part in the international anti-jihadist coalition in Iraq and Syria. On the other, under pressure from its allies, it finally accepted the refugees and allowed a symbolic contingent of Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross its territory to boost Kurdish defences in Kobane.

Ultimately, Turkey fears that the victory of the Kurds in northern Syria may further nurture independence ambitions in its own Kurdish regions.

For this reason, Erdogan has tried to prevent Bashar al-Assad from winning in Syria, among other reasons, because the Syrian leader, for pragmatic reasons, has expressed support for a Kurdish autonomous region in the country.

By contrast, Erdogan has labelled as "terrorist" those Kurdish parties in Turkey that support autonomy or independence.

Turkey is home to at least 15 million Kurds.

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