Town joins Kurdish-led order in Syria, widening sway at Turkish border

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2015 7:30 AM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian town captured from Islamic State by Kurdish-led forces in June joined the Kurdish-led political order in northern Syria on Wednesday, officials said, a move likely to deepen Turkish concerns about the Kurds' expanding role just over the border.

The town of Tel Abyad was captured by the Kurdish YPG militia with help from U.S.-led air strikes.

A local leadership council including representatives of Tel Abyad's Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen and Armenian communities declared it part of the system of autonomous self government established by the Kurds, two officials who attended the meeting said.

Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or "cantons", across northern Syria since the eruption of the conflict in 2011. They deny aiming to establish their own state, but Turkey is alarmed by their territorial gains which it fears could stir separatism among its own Kurdish minority.

The YPG's capture of Tel Abyad linked up the Kurdish-controlled canton of Kobani with the bigger canton of Jazeera which is further east and borders Iraq.

Wednesday's decision formally makes Tel Abyad part of the canton of Kobani - a town known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, Omar Alloush, an attendee of the meeting, told Reuters.

"It strengthens our ties to Kobani and with the other cantons that also implement the program of the autonomous administration," he said by phone. But he added that Tel Abyad would be self-governing.

He also denied an earlier comment by a Kurdish official who said Tel Abyad had declared itself as an entirely new canton.

(Reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Dominic Evans)