BEIRUT – A Turkish official said on Monday Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters were free to move through Turkey to Syria “as soon as they are ready” after a Syrian Kurdish leader accused Ankara of stalling on an agreement to allow them passage to the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani.
Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Reuters on Monday that the peshmerga had been ready to go into Kurdish-defended Kobani for three days.
“But we don’t know what is going on between them and Turkey. The delay is because of Turkey,” said Moslem, whose party’s armed wing, the YPG, has been battling Islamic State militants in Kobani for a month.
Turkey has been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, an al-Qaida offshoot. But after pressure from its Western allies, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last Wednesday that some peshmerga fighters from Iraq would be allowed to transit through Turkey to Kobani.
A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied Ankara was blocking the peshmerga, saying Turkey had given its consent in principle and talks were continuing.
Later on Monday the same official said the peshmerga had the green light to proceed.
“It’s not true what Moslem says. As soon as the peshmerga are ready they can go. Turkey has given its consent. ” he said, adding he was unsure when the transfer would take place.
The Iraqi Kurdish region’s parliament voted last week to deploy some of its peshmerga forces, who have been fighting their own battle against Islamic State in northern Iraq, to Syria.
They will not engage in direct combat in Kobani but provide artillery support, a Kurdish government spokesman said on Sunday.
“They should have arrived yesterday. Until now it seems Turkey is making some difficulty,” Moslem said by telephone.
Iraqi Kurdish officials cited technical issues for the delay but gave no further details.