February 14, 2016 / 11:05 AM / in 2 years

Syrian Kurdish party rejects Turkish demands, warns against intervention

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian Kurdish PYD party on Sunday rejected Turkish demands that allied militia withdraw from positions near the border that are being shelled by Turkish army, and warned that Syrians would resist any Turkish intervention in the country.

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

Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the PYD, told Reuters Turkey had no right to intervene in Syria’s internal affairs, adding that an air base shelled by the Turkish army on Saturday had been in the hands of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front until forces allied to the PYD captured it last week.

“Do they want the Nusra Front to stay there, or for the regime to come and occupy it?” Muslim said by telephone.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday demanded the PYD withdraw from areas north of Aleppo he said had been captured by the Kurdish group. Asked if he rejected that demand, Muslim said: “Of course”.

Saleh said the air base was captured by the PYD-allied Syria Democratic Forces, which includes Arabs and Turkmen alongside the powerful Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

He added that if Turkey intervened in Syria they would find “the entire Syrian people confronting them”.

Turkey on Saturday demanded the YPG militia withdraw from areas that it had captured in the northern Aleppo region in recent days from insurgents in Syria, including the Menagh air base. The Turkish shelling has targeted those areas.

Turkey has been alarmed by the expansion of Kurdish sway in northern Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. The YPG controls nearly all of Syria’s northern frontier with Turkey, and has been a close ally of the United States in the campaign against Islamic State in Syria.

Ankara views the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-old insurgency for autonomy in southeast Turkey.

Reporting by Tom Perry, editing by Larry King

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