September 18, 2014 / 2:09 PM / 3 years ago

PKK militants call on Turkish Kurds to fight Islamic State in Syria

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish PKK rebels, who have spent three decades fighting for autonomy for Turkey's Kurds, called on Thursday for the youth of the country's mostly Kurdish southeast to join the fight against Islamic State militants in northern Syria.

The call came as Islamic State fighters encircled the city of Ayn al-Arab near the Turkish border after seizing 21 villages in a major assault that prompted a commander to appeal for military aid from other Kurds in the region.

"The youth of northern Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) should go to Kobane (Ayn al-Arab) and take part in the historic, honourable resistance," the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said in a statement on its website.

The latest clashes across the border were a fresh headache for NATO member Turkey, which has made clear it is reluctant to play any frontline role in U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to bomb Islamic State (ISIL) fighters in Syria and Iraq.

But Turkey's border with Syria is long and hard to control.

The PKK, designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and European Union, also accused Turkey of supporting Islamic State fighters against the Kurds.

"It is continuing to give support to ISIL with arms and logistics. It is partnering ISIL in the attack on Kobane," the statement said.

Ankara, which has repeatedly denied giving any form of support to Islamic State fighters, launched a peace process with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012 to end a 30-year-old conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people in Turkey, but a settlement is still seen as a long way off.

Writing by Daren Butler; editing by Ralph Boulton; Editing by Nick Tattersall and John Stonestreet

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