U.S. airdrops military aid for Kurds fighting Islamic State in Kobani – Part 1

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GWEN IFILL: Now the latest on the battle that’s become a flash point in the war with Islamic State forces.

American airdrops and a Turkish reversal may finally bring relief to a key town in Syria.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has that.

MARGARET WARNER: After weeks fighting off a siege by Islamic State militants, the Syrian Kurds defending the town of Kobani are being reinforced.

Overnight, the U.S. airdropped pallets of weapons, ammunition and supplies furnished by Kurdish authorities and their Peshmerga forces in Iraq. Then this morning, Turkey, bordering Iraq and Syria, said it would help Iraqi Kurdish fighters travel through Turkey to Kobani to join the fight.

The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, spoke in Ankara.

MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU, Foreign Minister, Turkey (through interpreter): We are fully cooperating with the coalition with respect to Kobani. We are facilitating the passage of Peshmerga fighters to Kobani.

MARGARET WARNER: But Turkey continued to say more aid should go to rebel factions trying to oust Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU (through interpreter): We shouldn’t forget that the only element fighting both against Assad and the ISIS State is the Free Syrian Army. In framing a border strategy, the Free Syrian Army is the group to be supported.

MARGARET WARNER: Previously, Ankara has insisted it wouldn’t allow men or materiel cross its border to aid Kurds in Kobani. That’s mainly because the Syrian Kurdish fighter group in Kobani, called the PYD, is allied with a Kurdish group in Turkey, the PKK, that waged a bloody 30- year insurgency.

Just yesterday, after President Obama notified him of the coming U.S. airdrops by phone, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his displeasure clear.

PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): The PYD is, for us, equal to the PKK. It is also a terror organization. It would be wrong for the United States, with whom we are friends and allies in NATO, to talk openly and to expect us to say yes to supplying arms to a terror organization. We can’t say yes to that.

MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. airdrops also represent a stepped-up American effort to save Kobani, beyond its ongoing campaign of airstrikes against I.S. positions.

Secretary of State Kerry, in Indonesia today, said it was too important an opportunity to pass up.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: While they are a offshoot group of the folks that the — our friends the Turks oppose, they are valiantly fighting ISIL. And we cannot take our eye off the prize here. It would be irresponsible of us, as well as morally very difficult, to turn your back on a community fighting ISIL, as hard as it is, at this particular moment.

MARGARET WARNER: He didn’t say if there would be further airdrops, nor when Iraqi Peshmerga fighters might arrive.

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