Turkey not ready to restart peace talks with Kurds
Ankara says strikes against PKK in northern Iraq will continue until rebels lay down their arms
Turkish jets hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq overnight and the government said strikes would continue until the rebels lay down their arms, despite calls Wednesday by the pro-Kurdish opposition for an immediate end to the violence and the resumption of peace efforts.
The warplanes pounded about half a dozen positions belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a government statement said. Locations included the group’s mountainous stronghold in Qandil.
PKK spokesman Bakhtyar Dogan said the airstrikes lasted for three hours and caused “a lot of damage.” He had no casualty figures.
Turkish warplanes last week began striking targets in Syria of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, in response to an ISIS suicide bombing in southern Turkey that left 32 people dead, and another ISIS attack on Turkish forces, which killed a soldier.
But Turkey has also targeted Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective ground forces in the fight against ISIS and have been backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears a revival of the Kurdish insurgency in pursuit of an independent state.
Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, called for the peace process to resume. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, rejected the call, saying that would not happen until the party distances itself from the rebels and the PKK withdraws its armed fighters from Turkey’s territory.
“We’ll respond to their call the day they can condemn PKK terrorism the way they condemn DAESH terrorism,” Davutoglu said, using the Arabic acronym for the ISIS group. “Until they do that they are guilty in our eyes and in the eyes of the people.”
Turkey and its western allies consider the PKK a terrorist organization. Since 2012, however, Turkey had been negotiating with the group’s imprisoned leader for a peaceful settlement of the 30-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Demirtas’ call came at the same time that a prosecutor demanded that the politician’s parliamentary immunity be lifted so that he can be prosecuted for insulting the ruling party.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his council of ministers views the airstrikes in his country as “a dangerous escalation and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.” Turkey’s NATO allies meeting in a rare emergency meeting at Turkey’s request proclaimed support for the country’s fight against ISIS. But a NATO official said members also used the closed-door meeting to call on Turkey not to use excessive force in reaction to terror attacks, while urging it to continue with peace efforts.
In a separate development Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said that an agreement allowing the U.S.-led coalition against the ISIS to launch airstrikes from Incirlik and other Turkish bases has been approved by Cabinet. Coalition forces could start using the bases “any moment,” Bilgic said.
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