Turkish airstrikes against the PKK Kurdish minority have jeopardized a 2013 ceasefire with the group. EU lawmaker Kati Piri told DW the Turkish response has been “disproportionate.” Martin Kuebler reports from Brussels.
In the wake of last Monday’s suicide attack in the town of Suruc, in which an “Islamic State” (“IS”) militant killed 32 Turkish citizens, Ankara has stepped up its campaign against the group in an attempt to create what it has called “a safe zone” across its southeastern border with Syria.
But the Turkish government has come under criticism – including from Germany – for alsolaunching airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq, jeopardizing a 2013 ceasefire with the outlawed group, which has led a decades-long insurgency in support of Kurdish rights and autonomy.
Turkey has called for an emergency meeting with its NATO allies to discuss the fighting.
Kati Piri, a Dutch lawmaker with the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and responsible for EU-Turkey relations, told DW that Turkey’s strikes have put the Kurdish peace process at risk.
DW: What do you make of the Turkish response to last week’s terrorist attack in Suruc?
Kati Piri: While Turkey, in the view of many in the international coalition against ISIL [another term for the “Islamic State” group], was a bit reluctant to enter full scale into the coalition, it was also left with no other choice after this attack in which 32 of its citizens died.
On the other hand, after the PKK attacked and killed two police officers [on Wednesday], Turkey started a new spiral of violence also against the PKK. That, to say the least, is very worrying.
So you believe that Turkey’s response has been disproportionate?
It’s not just an attack on an organization [the PKK] with, in this case, camps in another country, northern Iraq. We’re also talking here about millions of Kurdish people living in Turkey, with whom there was a peace process, although very fragile, during the last two years. There was a truce, a ceasefire agreement between both the PKK and the government. In my view, if [the Turkish government] wants to keep the peace process with the Kurds alive, this full-size attack on the PKK looks a bit, to be honest, disproportionate. What’s been happening over the last three days has once again put the peace process very much into question. Is it dead? I hope not, but it doesn’t look very alive either. It’s very damaging.
Did last week’s attack in Suruc simply give Turkey an excuse to relaunch its campaign against the PKK?
Let’s not forget: Turkey does have the right to self defense. When its officers are killed by an organization which is also included on the European terrorist list, this is totally unacceptable. No one is saying that Turkey should just leave this alone and pretend that nothing has happened. On the other hand, knowing that there is such a delicate peace process going on, then you need to have a proportionate response as well.
What is much more dangerous to me now is that some politicians from the [ruling Justice and Development party] AKP, along with some politicians from the more right-wing party, MHP, are framing this pro-Kurdish party HDP [People’s Democratic Party] now as being directly linked to the PKK, which it is not. [The HDP] has also decried the violence, and [the government] is actually framing the 6 million people who voted for this party as potential terrorists, or terrorist supporters. And this rhetoric is very dangerous for a country which has gone through such a circle of violence.
On Saturday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and HDP head Selahattin Demirtas, stressing the “fundamental importance” of keeping the peace process with the Kurdish people “alive and on track.” Has the EU response been sufficient?