Turkey vows ‘whatever necessary’ in fight against militants
Ankara is waging a two-pronged cross border “anti-terror” offensive against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq, after a wave of attacks in the country.
But so far, the air strikes against the PKK targets in northern Iraq have far outweighed those against IS, raising concerns about the extent of possible civilian casualties.
Erdogan told reporters returning with him on a trip to Asia that the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq should be taking action against the PKK bases there.
“If they cannot, Turkey will do whatever necessary to defend itself,” he was quoted as telling reporters on his presidential jet.
But with the PKK staging daily attacks on security forces in reprisal for Turkish bombing raids, Erdogan denied there would be any return to the 1990s when the group’s separatist insurgency was at its peak.
“I don’t believe that. That’s impossible. Maybe those who say this want to return to the 1990s,” he said, quoted by the Sabah daily and other newspapers.
– ‘Common interest’ –
The current crisis began two weeks ago on July 20 when 32 young pro-Kurdish activists were killed in a Turkish town on the Syrian border in a suicide bombing blamed on IS.
The PKK, which accuses the government of collaborating with IS, shot dead two Turkish police in reprisal to start a new wave of violence that has shattered a 2013 ceasefire.
According to an AFP toll, 17 members of the Turkish security forces have since been killed on attacks blamed on the PKK.
Funerals for dead soldiers and police have now become a daily event, broadcast live on state television.
Erdogan alleged there may be a “common interest” between the PKK and IS, although the two groups are usually seen as bitterly opposed and have frequently clashed on the battlefield.
In new violence blamed on the PKK, two military vehicles were damaged in the southeastern province of Bitlis when they drove over a remote-controlled mine early Monday morning. The soldiers on board were not hurt.
In the town of Tatvan in the southeastern Van province, suspected PKK militants staged a gun attack on a military hospital, the official Anatolia news agency said.
The Turkish air strikes have also put the regional government in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, which has good ties with Ankara and tense relations with the PKK, in a delicate predicament.
The Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have long tolerated the presence of PKK fighters in its remote mountains, but the regional president Massud Barzani said it was time the group took its battle with Turkey elsewhere to avoid civilian casualties.
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said 10 civilians, including a pregnant woman, were killed early Saturday in a Turkish air strike on a Kurdish village in northern Iraq.
The Turkish foreign ministry promised a “full investigation” into the claims. But the army denied the charges, saying “no civilian locations were to be found in the vicinity affected by the bombing.”
– ‘Stirring things up’ –
The violence also comes with Turkey still without a permanent government since June 7 legislative elections, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority, much to the chagrin of Erdogan.
The HDP has accused Erdogan of triggering the whole security crisis in the hope of calling early elections so the AKP can recoup its losses — allegations the Turkish strongman vehemently denies.
The AKP and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) were Monday holding a fifth and final day of talks on a possible grand coalition, but the press was downbeat about the prospects of a deal.
CHP chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a television interview late Sunday that whereas Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu “really wants” to form a coalition government Erdogan was blocking an alliance.
“He is stirring things up,” he told the Haber Turk channel.
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