Erdoğan’s all-out advance on the PKK

Erdoğan’s all-out advance on the PKK

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been in Germany for the last two days to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Turkish workforce’s contribution to Germany’s industrial revival after World War II.

Yet the main subject of his messages in front of the media, like the one yesterday together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was on Turkey’s struggle against the terror attacks of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Erdoğan was grateful to Merkel, who said that they would not leave Turkey alone in its fight against terrorism, since Germany, like the European Union, had declared the PKK a terrorist organization. But he also demanded more support, especially physical support, against the PKK, including action against its front associations.

More than a fifth of the nearly 3 million Turkey-origin population of Germany (the biggest minority in the country) is assumed to be of Kurdish origin, and the PKK is active among them in both collecting money and recruiting militants to fight against Turkey after being trained in militia camps in northern Iraq. Erdoğan said yesterday that the amount of money that the PKK earns in Europe, not only in Germany, totals 6 billion Euros. Yesterday there was extraordinary activity in France as well prior to Erdoğan’s travel today.

Before a Paris court gave (suspended) sentences of 18 months to five years to 18 members of the PKK, the French police conducted a sweeping operation to take the organization’s agitators into custody. A few days ago, a pro-PKK group attacked a group of Turkish demonstrators in Paris who were protesting terrorist attacks that had claimed lives in Turkey. The Turkish and French governments recently signed an extensive anti-terrorism cooperation agreement in Ankara and it seems that French President Nicolas Sarkozy did not want to be embarrassed by the PKK during Erdoğan’s stay in the country.

Upon his return to Turkey, Erdoğan is expected to meet with President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq in order to discuss the possibilities of more cooperation against the PKK. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğu said earlier in the week that if the Iraqi authorities (that includes the Kurdish authority in the north) cannot remove the PKK from the region, Turkey would go and do the job itself.

Turkish military has been making preparations along the Iraqi border recently following a PKK attack on a border unit that killed 24 Turkish soldiers; after the attack, the United States promised more intelligence and material support to Turkey.

On the domestic scene, there have been efforts to write a new constitution in the hopes of laying the groundwork to solve the Kurdish problem, as well as the mass arrests of those accused of being members of the PKK’s urban front organization, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). When the last wave hit university professor Büşra Ersanlı, who is a member of the Constitutional Committee of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – which shares grassroots with the PKK – as well as prominent publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, widespread reactions were also heard from liberal intellectuals, who have expressed concerns of a witch hunt.

Under the circumstances, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek is trying to keep the BDP involved in the new constitution effort, which is just another indication of the complexity of the picture