Turkish prime minister emphasized that the province of Hatay on the border with Syria was a particularly sensitive area. AA photo
Deadly attacks in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district along the Syrian border that killed at least 43 people today might be linked with the ongoing Kurdish peace process in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
suggested in his first remarks after the explosions.
“We have started a resolution process in our country, and there are those who don’t accept this new era or do not consider the air of freedom to be positive who might have been involved in such [attacks],” Erdoğan said, emphasizing that the province of Hatay on the border with Syria was a particularly sensitive area. “Hatay is a province where there are some sensibilities. Some might have intended to incite these sensitivities. Around 20,000 to 25,000 Syrians live in camps [across Hatay]. It might be a factor of not accepting this.”
Hatay is one of the most heterogeneous areas of Turkey, home to many minorities including Kurds and Alawites. Since Syria’s civil war started two years ago, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have also been settled in the province, stoking occasional tensions.
Syria hosted the senior leaders of the PKK
in the 1980s and 1990s. Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s jailed leader, stayed in Syria until 1998, a year before his capture in Kenya.
The Turkish government has initiated a peace process aiming to end more than 30 years of conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Militants from the group began a landmark withdrawal from Turkey on May 8.
The deadly conflict in Syria will also top Erdoğan’s agenda during a visit to Washington on May 16. Erdoğan called on the United States to take further action regarding Syria during an interview with NBC News this week, saying it was certain that al-Assad’s troops had chemical weapons against opposition militants and that U.S. President Barack Obama’s “red line” on intervention had been crossed.