An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
It's Spokane Public Radio's Spring Fund Drive. Donate now until Tuesday and your donation will be matched up to $30,000!

Turkey Opens Border For Iraqis Seeking To Fight ISIS


As the so-called Islamic State continues to attack the Syrian border town of Kobani, Turkey says it will allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to move through Turkey as reinforcements. This comes as an American aircraft dropped weapons to the mainly Kurdish Kobani defenders and as Syrians Kurds released a statement appearing to endorse the Syrian revolution that aims to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

NPR's Peter Kenyon has more from Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: It was a day when balky allies seemed to make an extra effort to generate at least the appearance of coming together. The Americans who, like the Turks, have designated the Kurdish militants defending Kobani a terrorist group, airdropped light weapons, ammunition and medical supplies. The Pentagon says 27 of 28 bundles reached the mainly Kurdish fighters. One that drifted into ISIS territory had to be destroyed. The weapons were supplied by the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry says it's not a change in policy, just a momentary reaction to the crisis in Kobani. Turkey not only didn't object to this arming of a group it usually considers the enemy, but Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Ankara is in talks to allow Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq act to move across Turkey to help push ISIS out of Kobani.

MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU: (Foreign language spoken).

KENYON: Cavusoglu says Turkey is willing to help Kurds go defend Kobani and announced for the first time that Ankara does not want to see Kobani fall. In comments perhaps directed at the domestic audience, he adds that it's not just Kurds fighting ISIS in Kobani. Some Free Syrian Army units have joined as well. For a country that has equated Syrian Kurds and their counterparts in Iraq and Turkey with ISIS, it was a remarkable shift.

Perhaps coincidentally, the YPG - the Syrian Kurdish militants defending Kobani - had an announcement of their own. They released a statement saying that the success of the revolution is subject to the progression of the relationship of all forces of good in this country.

It was hardly a definitive endorsement of the Syrian revolution, but for a brief moment at least, it seems the coalition opposing ISIS is working the way it's supposed to, putting aside differences to focus on an urgent immediate threat.

Crucial questions remain unanswered. How many fighters can Kurdish Iraq spare for Kobani and will this marriage of convenience have any longer-term impact on Turkish Kurdish relationships in the future?

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.