Turkey has said it will allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to cross its borders and join Syrian Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Syrian town of Kobane.
The reported shift in Turkish policy came after a phone call between US President Barack Obama and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We are assisting Peshmerga forces to cross into Kobane,” Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish foreign minister, announced in Ankara on Monday, adding that talks on the issue were under way.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Erbil in northern Iraq, said there was no official decision by Iraq’s Peshmerga forces to send fighters to Kobane, which is close to the Turkish border.
“The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG], Massoud Barzani, offered to send fighters to Kobane a few weeks ago when he was under pressure with anger mounting on the streets.
“But Peshmerga commanders have told Al Jazeera that this is unrealistic as forces are already stretched thin battling ISIL [in Iraq],” our correspondent said.
The Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose armed wing has been leading the battle against ISIL in Kobane, said the announcement was just “Turkish propaganda”.
“The Peshmerga have their own problems in Iraq,” Saleh Muslim, the PYD leader, told Al Jazeera.
Turkish presidential sources told Al Jazeera that during his phone call to Erdogan, Obama described the situation in Kobane as “desperate”.
The US on Sunday began airdropping weapons and supplies to Kurdish fighters defending the Syrian city against ISIL, despite Turkey’s continued objections.
The US military said it had conducted six air strikes against ISIL positions near Kobane in the past two days, destroying the armed group’s fighting positions and vehicles.
The airdrops followed weeks of US and coalition air strikes in and near Kobane.
Ankara changes stances
Turkey objected to the airdrops because it considers the PYD to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkish security forces have waged a 30-year conflict with the PKK, whose battle for self-rule has left 40,000 dead.
However, Turkey has recently forged strong relations with the Kurdish authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq who control the Peshmerga forces.
Turkey has so far refused to use its own troops or let US forces launch strikes on ISIL from the Incirlik airbase in nearby Adana province.
Meanwhile, activists said that the ISIL launched a fresh assault on Kobane late on Monday hours after it was announced that Kurds, who are defending the besieged Syrian border town, had received a first US airdrop of weapons.
The group launched an assault “on all fronts of the city,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group told AFP.
The assault reportedly followed two suicide attacks in the north of Kobane earlier on Monday, in an apparent bid to cut the town off from Turkey.