Europe

Kurdish peace 'impossible' - Turkey's Erdogan

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Media captionCockpit footage shows Turkish jets targeting the PKK in northern Iraq, as Jonathan Beale reports

The Turkish president has said his country cannot continue the peace process with the Kurds amid attacks by Kurdish militants on Turkish targets.

There has been a recent series of clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish PKK militants.

Turkey has also been hit by attacks by by Islamic State-linked militants - including one that left 32 dead in the town of Suruc last week.

Turkey considers both the PKK and IS terrorist organisations.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Syrian Kurds are "outside the scope of the current military effort," Turkey insists

Over the past week, analysts say, Turkey has turned its approach to the US-led coalition against IS on its head.

Previously a reluctant partner, it is now flying combat missions and making its airbases available to US jets.

Explainer: Turkey v Islamic State v the Kurds

Tit-for-tat

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara that it was "not possible to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood".

Later on Tuesday, Turkey's military reported that it had used fighter jets to target Kurdish rebels after its soldiers were attacked in Sirnak province, near the country's border with Iraq.

In a statement quoted by the Associated Press news agency, it said the Kurdish militants had fired on Turkish soldiers with heavy weaponry.

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Media captionThe threat from the group calling itself Islamic State could revive animosity between Turks and Kurds

Turkish police have continued to arrest suspected members of IS, the PKK and leftist groups, with more than 1,000 held over the past week.

Although Turkey insists Syrian Kurds are "outside the scope of the current military effort", analysts say its new determination to tackle IS is linked to keeping a check on Kurdish militancy.

Speaking after Mr Erdogan, a spokesman for the ruling AK Party insisted that the peace process with Kurdish militants could continue if "terrorist elements" put down their weapons and left the country.

"We cannot say that the peace process is de facto over," Besir Atalay told a news conference in Ankara.

"There is currently a stagnation in the mechanism but it would restart where it left off if these intentions emerge."

The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party - the People's Democratic Party (HDP) - dismissed the Mr Erdogan's comments.

HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtas insisted his party's only crime was winning 13% of the vote in June elections, according to comments reported Reuters news agency.


Analysis: Mark Urban, BBC Newsnight

Turkey's allies are nervous that it could link its actions against IS and the PKK in ways that they would rather avoid.

For the Americans, strikes against Kurdish armed groups in Iraq and Syria are highly unwelcome because these troops are among the few reliable partners they have on the ground in the struggle against IS.

To the Turks, the so-called Caliphate of IS and the PKK are two sides of the same coin - terrorist movements that endanger their security while exploiting the power vacuum in northern Syria and Iraq.

Mr Erdogan apparently calculates that hitting the PKK, against which Turkey fought a long and bitter insurgency, will not overly endanger his relations with the US or a two-year-old ceasefire with the Kurdish group; nor will they shatter the peace of south-east Turkey more generally.

Turkey: The erratic ally

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Turkey is struggling with more than 1.8 million refugees from the Syrian conflict.

Mr Erdogan said plans being discussed with the US to establish a "secure zone" in northern Syria would pave the way for the refugees' return.

Under the plan, militants would be removed from a 68-mile (109km) stretch west of the Euphrates River, officials say.

Such a deal would significantly increase the scope of the US-led air war against IS in northern Syria, say analysts.

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Media captionJens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of Nato: "We stand in strong solidarity with our ally Turkey"

Tuesday also saw Nato discuss the Turkish campaigns against IS and Kurdish militants. All 28 Nato member countries met in Brussels to discuss what it called "the threats against Turkey", a key member of the alliance.

In a final communique, Nato expressed "strong solidarity" with Turkey, and sent condolences to Ankara and "the families of the victims in Suruc and other attacks against police and military officers".

However, Nato officials quoted by news agencies said alliance members use the closed-door meeting to urge Turkey not to use excessive force, and to continue peace talks with representatives of its Kurdish minority.


Kurdish acronyms:

  • PKK: Kurdistan Workers' Party - Turkish Kurdish party led by Abdullah Ocalan (jailed since 1999)
  • PYD: Democratic Unity Party - PKK-aligned party in Syria
  • YPG: Popular Protection Units - PYD-aligned armed force in Syria
  • KRG: Kurdistan Regional Government - the official governing body of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq
  • KDP: Kurdistan Democratic Party - the dominant Iraqi Kurdish party, led by Massoud Barzani
  • HPD: People's Democracy Party - pro-Kurdish left-wing Turkish opposition party which won over 13% of the vote in June elections