Top Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan has warned that if ISIS seizes the Kurdish border town of Ayn al-Arab, it would mean a massacre and by extension the end of the peace process between Turkey and its own Kurdish minority.
The jailed Ocalan issued a statement today insisting that the process would end if ISIS “achieves its goal” against Ayn al-Arab, admonishing Turks who don’t want to see the process end take responsibility for the defense of the town.
Ayn al-Arab has been attacked several times by ISIS, and in the past 16 days, the militants have seized over 350 villages in the area around the town, and their fighters were, as of this morning, less than half a kilometer from the outskirts.
Syrian Kurds have sent large numbers of militia fighters to try to defend the town, and Turkish Kurdish factions have also tried to send fighters to the area, complaining that the Turkish government has limited their ability to send fighters into the town through the border.
Ocalan began the peace process in March of last year, calling on the PKK to cease fire on the Turkish forces after nearly 30 years of war. So far, negotiations haven’t amounted to much, but there is a lot of hope that the deal could eventually be reached.
Turkey seemed poised to be moving against ISIS at any rate, but Ocalan’s comments make it seem like a PKK order, which might make the move less popular with officials who aren’t keen on the Kurdish negotiations to begin with.