Syrian Kurdish leader accuses Turkey for shooting down Russian fighter jet

PYD leader Salih Muslim

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian Kurdish leader Muslim accused Turkey of shooting down a Russian jet earlier this week in order to further disrupt the Syrian war, where he said armed groups backed by Turkey had lost some ground.

“Turkey wanted to turn the tables because they don’t want the Syrian conflict to go towards a peace process and a political solution. I think there was planning for such a thing,” he said, echoing Russian comments about Turkey.

Turkey has said the Russian jet violated its airspace and that its air force had responded correctly.

“It’s a new escalation in the Syrian conflict,” Muslim said, pointing out that Russia had already retaliated by bombarding a rebel-held border crossing on Wednesday which he said insurgents had been using to ferry in supplies from Turkey.

“We are worried but it is becoming clearer and clearer what is going on,” he said, saying that Turkey had been supporting groups that cooperated with hardline Islamists in Syria.

“There is Daesh, there is an al Qaeda-related organisation, Nusra Front, which works with groups like Ahrar al-Sham and the others. Many of those are supported by Turkey – this is the problem. Everything has been made very clear in front of our eyes,” he said.

Turkey has denied supporting hardline groups in Syria.

Muslim said Russia had been bombarding insurgents in Syria which included Chechen and Asian fighters Moscow sees as a threat to its national security.

“Russia is dealing with them because they see them as a threat for Russia in the future if they come back. They are talking about 5,000 people that are there,” he said, referring to foreign fighters.

He added that the PYD had however not increased its contacts with Moscow since Russia started bombing Syria two months ago.

“It is just ordinary contact… we have a representative in Moscow who relays information from them. But there is nothing new,” he said, adding that Moscow had not offered increased support for the Kurds either.

“They don’t offer and we didn’t ask for it.”