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ISTANBUL: Turkey will never allow the formation of an “artificial state” in northern Syria, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Sunday, referring to the US-backed Kurdish fighters whose advance Ankara is now aiming to stop.

In a speech in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, where he announced an investment programme to rebuild parts of the largely Kurdish region that have been destroyed by security operations, the prime minister said: “We are there with Euphrates Shield, we are there to protect our border, to provide for our citizens safety of life and property, and to ensure Syria’s integrity.”

Turkey is fighting a three-decade-old Kurdish insurgency in the southeast and fears that advances by Syria’s People’s Protection Units (YPG) will embolden militants at home. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

While the United States and Europe also regard the PKK as a terrorist group, Washington sees the YPG as a separate entity and as its most effective partner in the fight against the militant Islamic State group in Syria. That position has caused friction with Turkey, a Nato member and a partner in the fight against Islamic State.At a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the co-head of Turkey’s Kurdish-rooted Peoples’ De­m­o­cratic Party (HDP) denou­nced the incursion into Syria as an “invasion”.

“The government, which says it wants to stop ISIS (Islamic State) with the Jara­blus invasion, has no credibility. The invasion of Jarablus is totally an adversarial appr­o­­ach against Kurds and we will never accept it,” Selaha­ttin Demi­rtas told reporters.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday raised concern about the formation of a “terror corridor” along Turkey’s Syrian border.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2016