ANKARA/BEIRUT - Turkey said on Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian town of Kobani on Turkey's border, and the United States air-dropped arms to help the Kurds there resist an Islamic State assault.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was facilitating the passage of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces, themselves fighting Islamic State in Iraq. He stopped short of saying whether Ankara backed the US air-drop of weapons.
Turkey's refusal to intervene in the fight with Islamic State has frustrated the United States and sparked lethal riots in southeastern Turkey by Kurds furious at Ankara's failure to help Kobani or at least open a land corridor for volunteer fighters and reinforcements to go there.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington had asked Ankara to help "get the peshmerga or other groups" into Kobani so they could help defend the town, adding he hoped the Kurds would "take this fight on".
The European Union also urged Turkey on Monday to open its border to allow supplies to get through to residents of Kobani.
If the reinforcements come through, it may mark a turning point in the battle for Kobani, a town where Syrian Kurds have struggled for weeks against better-armed Islamic State fighters trying to reshape the Middle East.
Speaking in Indonesia, Kerry acknowledged Turkish concerns about support for the Kurds, and said the air drop of supplies provided by the Kurdish authorities in Iraq did not amount to a change of US policy.
The battle against Islamic State, a group also known by the acronym ISIL that has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq, was an overriding consideration, Kerry indicated.
"We understand fully the fundamentals of (Ankara's) opposition and ours to any kind of terrorist group, and particularly, obviously, the challenges they face with respect to the PKK," he told reporters.
But he added: "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."
Ankara views the Syrian Kurds with deep suspicion because of their ties to the PKK, a group that waged a decades-long militant campaign for Kurdish rights in Turkey and which Washington regards as a terrorist organisation.
'A CRISIS MOMENT'
Kerry said both he and President Barack Obama had spoken to Turkish authorities before the air drops "to make it very, very clear this is not a shift of policy by the United States".
"It is a crisis moment, an emergency where we clearly do not want to see Kobani become a horrible example of the unwillingness of people to be able to help those who are fighting ISIL," he added.
Iraqi Kurdish official Hemin Hawrami wrote on his Twitter feed that 21 tonnes of weapons and ammunition supplied by the Iraqi Kurds had been dropped in the small hours of Monday.
US Central Command said US Air Force C-130 aircraft had dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to allow the Kurdish fighters to keep up their resistance in the town, which is called Kobani in Kurdish and Ayn al-Arab in Arabic.