Germany backs Turkey's drive against IS and Kurds

 24 Aug 2016 - 16:46

Germany backs Turkey's drive against IS and Kurds
Turkish army tanks and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters make their way in the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Berlin: Germany on Wednesday said it supported both an unprecedented Turkish operation in Syria to drive out Islamic State jihadists and Ankara's targeting of Kurdish militia fighters at the border.

Foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters that the Turkish air and ground offensive in a key Syrian border town was "in keeping with the goals and aims of the anti-IS coalition".

He added that Berlin would not condemn Ankara's action against Kurdish fighters, who are backed by the US as a key ally against IS and who had also been closing in on the town of Jarabulus directly opposite Turkey.

"Turkey, rightly or wrongly, believes that there are links between the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), which we see as a terror organisation, on the Turkish side and elements among the Kurds on the Syrian side," Schaefer said. 

"We respect that and think that Turkey has the legitimate right to take action against these terrorist activities. Hence we support Turkey on this."

The Turkish operation -- named "Euphrates Shield" -- began around 4:00 am (0100 GMT) Wednesday with artillery pounding dozens of IS targets around Jarabulus.

Turkish F-16 fighter jets, backed by US-led coalition war planes, also hit targets inside Syria, after tensions had flared following rocket fire from Jarabulus which landed inside Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised the operation was also targeting the Kurdish militia fighters over alarm in Turkey about the activities inside Syria of the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Washington sees as an ally but Ankara regards as a terror group.