Ibrahim Kalin, the presidential spokesman, tells Al Jazeera that Ankara will target the PKK, YPG and PYD Kurdish groups to protect its borders.
A spokesman for the Turkish president told Al Jazeera that the Kurdish forces in Syria are “correct”, and criticized them for using relations with the United States to justify their presence on the Turkish-Syrian border.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara is following the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD) to protect its borders.
Ankara has blamed the PKK, YPG and allied groups for the November 13 Istanbul bombings and previous attacks. The PKK has been waging terrorist attacks for decades in Turkey’s autonomous south-east. Ankara, along with its NATO allies – the US and the European Union – declared the PKK a “terrorist” organization.
“For us, every location of the PKK, PYD, YPG, objects, documents, military bases is acceptable to us,” Kalin said during an interview with the Talk to Al Jazeera program, whether they are in Syria or Turkey.
“They are legitimate targets because they are terrorist organizations,” he said. “We go after them to protect our borders. We don’t fight Russian or American troops or Syrian troops or anywhere else.”
Kalin went on to say that the “elements” of the PKK, PYD, and YPG have in the past used the American and Syrian government flags to “defend themselves”.
“This shows the extent to which the PYD and YPG are using their alliance with the United States to justify their presence in northern Syria,” he said.
A presidential spokesman said the recent “terrorist” attacks on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street prompted Turkey to respond. The perpetrator, a Syrian woman of Kurdish origin, was trained by Kurdish forces there, the government said.
“Our first response was to coordinate and operate multiple flights,” Kalin said. “And of course, based on the number of threats that have been assessed by intelligence and our ministry of air defense and allied agencies, we will pursue these terrorists, whether from the air or from the ground.”
Turkey has increased its shelling and airstrikes in northern Syria in recent weeks and has been preparing to attack the YPG, the mostly Kurdish militia that controls the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria. Ankara is reportedly targeting several SDF military bases in Raqqa, Syria.
Belghan Ozturk, a security analyst, said that the bombings in Istanbul were “a red line for Turkey’s national stability and national security”.
“So the YPG launched rocket attacks in response to Turkish attacks,” said Ozturk from Denver, Colorado. “Turkey wants to make sure that the YPG is not able to carry out any more attacks – inside Turkey and cross the rocket launchers.”
The delay may be due to the resistance that Turkey has faced with several Syrian countries, including Iran, Russia and the United States.
On Friday, the SDF, which controls part of northern Syria, said it would not participate in anti-terrorist operations by the US and other Turkish allies. The SDF said it has documented 70 plots since the project was announced.
A spokesman for the SDF said that “all counter-terrorist operations” with the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of ISIL (ISIS) in Syria and “all special operations that we used to do regularly” have been suspended.