The Slatest

U.N. Envoy Asks Turkey to Let Kurdish Fighters Cross Border to Defend Kobani

Turkish Kurds look across the Turkey-Syria border into Kobani.

Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

A United Nations envoy monitoring ISIS’s offensive against the Syrian border city of Kobani—a strategically important location that’s being defended by Kurdish forces and American-led airstrikes but is still in danger of falling—said Turkey should allow Kurdish volunteers to cross the border into Syria to defend the city. The U.N. representative, Staffan de Mistura, said that a massacre is “likely” if ISIS takes control of the city:

“If this falls, the 700, plus perhaps the 12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” de Mistura said, referring to U.N. estimates for the number of Kurdish fighters defending the town and the total number of people believed trapped inside it.

“Do you remember Srebrenica? We do. We never forgot and probably we never forgave ourselves,” said de Mistura, the U.N. peace envoy for Syria. “When there is an imminent threat to civilians, we cannot, we should not, be silent.”

Turkish Kurds, angry about being prohibited by their government from traveling to or sending material support to Kobani, have rioted across southeastern Turkey in recent days, with at least 31 deaths recorded.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has said it will only join the coalition fighting ISIS if the coalition enforces a no-fly zone near the Syria-Turkey border. The move could put the anti-ISIS alliance into conflict with Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad’s air forces—but the coalition’s ostensible purpose is only to fight ISIS, not Assad.