Gül to Syria: Do not use PKK against us

Gül to Syria: Do not use PKK against us

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Gül to Syria: Do not use PKK against us

President Gül issues another harsh warning to the Syrian administration. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Syria should not even consider sheltering members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or using the group as a pawn against Turkey, Turkish President Abdullah Gül has told Damascus while also noting Ankara’s flourishing ties with Washington.

 “I would strongly suggest and would expect that [Damascus] would not get involved in such a dangerous game,” Gül said in recent comments to the Financial Times. “Even though I do not think they would do that, we are still closely following the matter.”

Gül made the comments in the wake of a devastating attack last month by the PKK that killed 24 Turkish troops in the eastern province of Hakkari’s Çukurca district. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and others.

Gül also pushed back at Iran’s efforts to depict Turkey’s line on Syria as a bid to curry favor with Washington. “When we talk to Iran, we always tell them that we are not against the Syrian regime due to pressure imposed by any other country. It is because of and for the people of Syria.”

Last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hailed ongoing anti-regime protests in Syria as a “glorious resistance” and promised that Turkey would continue to display the necessary “attitude” against Damascus’ crackdown. Erdoğan also expressed regret that the Syrian government had not appreciated Turkey’s friendship and had disregarded its calls for reform.

Gül also said bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.S. had never been better, rejecting Iranian claims that Ankara was merely following Washington’s bidding.

“The period we are going through is the healthiest relations that we have ever had with the U.S,” he said.

“Turkey’s success, especially during the last decade, has impressed the Arab world,” said Gül, adding that his country’s secular, democratic, free-market and Muslim characteristics. “For that reason, they are following us closely and for that reason we have indirect influence.”

This week, Washington announced plans for its first significant arms sale to Turkey since 2009 – a $111m attack helicopter deal. U.S. officials announced the plans to sell three AH-1 Super Cobra helicopters to Ankara following the Oct. 19 attacks.

Speaking about NATO radar, another point of contention between Turkey and Iran, Gül said the system did not single out Tehran. “No single country should be pointed out as an enemy; rather, this is a system against missiles.”

The U.S. has said the system is designed to ward off attacks from Iran, a view that Turkey strongly resists.

Iran has criticized Turkey for agreeing to allow NATO to station an early-warning radar in the southeast of the country to serve as part of the alliance’s missile defense system.

The president also said Ankara would press on with its bid to join the European Union even though some EU member states have begun to alienate public opinion with their “negative attitudes.”

Issuing a pointed aside in regards to Turkey’s low budget deficit and government debt, he said, “At the moment, we are doing much better than most of the EU countries in terms of the Maastricht criteria.”