Kurdish militia is accused of 'changing the demographic structure' of Syria, preventing thousands of Turkmen from returning home
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a Kurdish state in Syria, accusing Kurdish fighters of ethnically cleansing non-Kurdish communities from land they have taken after pushing back Islamic State (IS) militants.
"I say to the international community that whatever price must be paid, we will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria," Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media as telling guests at a dinner to break the Ramadan fast.
He accused Kurdish forces of "changing the demographic structure" of several areas close to the Turkish border, which have Arab and Turkmen populations.
Turkey has fought a 31-year insurgency in the south east of the country by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara claims is closely linked to the main Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.
Despite ongoing peace talks with the PKK, the creation of any Kurdish zone in the north of Syria deeply worries Turkey, particularly as it borders the already autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
But in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Saleh Muslim, the head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) - the political wing of the YPG militia - denied they were trying to create an independent state.
"We do not have such a project," he said.
Turkey is one of the fiercest opponents of Bashar al-Assad's rule in Damascus and has taken in more than 1.8 million refugees since the war in Syria began.
12,000 Turkmen evacuate village after PYD 'threat'
Meanwhile, a Syrian Turkmen politician said that the PYD is executing a systematic plan to change the demography of northern Syria by singling out the Turkmen community in particular.
Abdurrahman Mustafa, head of the Turkmen assembly in the war-torn country, told the Anadolu Agency on Friday that PYD allegedly forced his community members to leave the Hamam village in the Syrian border city of Tal Abyad.
"Around 12,000 Turkmen had to evacuate their village after PYD forces threatened them and now nearly 1,000 others have been forced to leave," Mustafa said.
Claiming that the PYD wanted to change the demographic nature of northern Syria, Mustafa said: "They are executing their plan systematically."
Mustafa recalled that over 200 Turkmen had taken refuge in Turkey and more than 800 others moved to the east of Tal Abyad earlier this week due to the alleged PYD actions.
"Those 800 Turkmen tried to get back to Hamam after two days, but instead the PYD threatened to bomb their village," he said.
"However, Turkmen do not want to leave the place they live and we won't give up till the last moment," Mustafa added.
In the past few weeks, Turkey has been witnessing another massive inflow of Syrian refugees from Tal Abyad and nearby areas as they flee clashes between IS and YPG fighters.
In addition, at least 5,000 Turkmens have been forced to migrate from Tal Abyad by armed Kurdish groups over the last two days, a former city councillor has claimed.
Ekrem Dada told Anadolu Agency on Saturday that at least 5,000 Turkmens have fled Tal Abyad.
The Turkmens were gathered in a school before armed Kurdish groups warned them to leave for purported security reasons.
Separately, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces released a statement Saturday criticizing Kurdish forces for the Tal Abyad deportation policy.
Kurdish 'smear campaign' against Ankara
The Syrian border city was captured on 15 June by the YPG with the help of Free Syrian Army rebels and US-led coalition airstrikes in northeastern Syria to push back IS forces.
A total of 23,349 refugees - mainly Arabs and Turkmen - fleeing clashes in Tal Abyad have entered Turkey’s Sanliurfa province through the Akcakale border crossing since 3 June, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said at a weekly press briefing on Thursday.
YPG fighters ousted IS militants from the border town of Kobane on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
IS's bloody attack on the town had left at least 200 civilians dead, the Observatory said.
Local journalist Rudi Mohammad Amin told AFP that "all of Kobane is again under the control of the YPG".
Kurdish activists have claimed that Turkey allowed IS fighters to cross over into Syria prior to surprise suicide attacks on YPG-held Kobane on Thursday – a charge denied by Turkey as part of a "smear campaign" against Ankara.