EU concern over Turkish response to PKK attacks

A demonstrator stands in front of a word reads "existence" written on a wall as she waits for the start of a march in solidarity with Kurdistan Workers Party jailed leader Ocalan in Diyarbakir. (Reuters)

The EU said Tuesday it was deeply concerned about recent bloody clashes between Turkey and Kurdish militants, urging Ankara to be "proportionate" in its response so as not to endanger a faltering peace process.

Last month, Turkey began attacks against ISIS militants across its southern border with Syria while also launching extensive bombing raids against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside Turkey and in northern Iraq.

The move against ISIS was widely welcomed as part of international efforts to counter the jihadists, but the attacks on the PKK raised wide concerns Turkey was using ISIS as a cover for a push against the Kurds, its real target.

EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn told Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkir that the 28-nation bloc "acknowledged the commitment of the Turkish authorities to stepping up the fight against ISIS and re-affirmed the EU's strong support for these efforts.

"At the same time, the Commissioner expressed the EU's deep concern about recent developments which have a negative impact on the Kurdish-Turkish settlement process," Hahn was quoted as saying in a statement Tuesday.

"The EU acknowledges that Turkey has the right to prevent and react to any form of terrorism, which must be unequivocally condemned," he said, without citing the PKK or any Kurdish group by name.

"The response, however, must be proportionate, targeted and by no means endanger the democratic political dialogue in the country."

"We count on Turkey to live up to its important and strategic role for the whole region, by refraining from any action that could further destabilise the region."

The Commission said Hahn also spoke to the co-head of Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), telling Selahattin Demirtas on Friday that "all parties should re-commit to the peace process and work now on a broad and inclusive political solution."

In the latest incident, two Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded in southeast Turkey in an attack blamed on the PKK Tuesday.

The PKK and Ankara agreed a truce in late 2012 but peace talks since then have failed to make much headway in resolving a conflict which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Turkey is a long-standing candidate for EU membership, beginning so-called accession talks in 2005, but the process has been bogged down for years over its human rights record.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46