Turkey reacts to int’l calls for resumption of talks with PKK
Serkan Demirtaş - ABU DHABİA senior Turkish government member has refuted international calls for Turkey to return to the negotiation table with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), asking whether these countries could guarantee that militants would lay down their arms.
“These countries should see whether they can guarantee us that the PKK would drop their arms, instead of giving advice to us for the resumption of talks. We took this political risk [in the past]. We sincerely continued the process our president launched,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a group of journalists traveling with him to the United Arab Emirates on April 25.
Çavuşoğlu’s remarks follow Western countries’ calls on Turkey to return to the negotiation table with the PKK while a senior militant leader has said there has been direct contact between his organization and the United States.
“This is the Americans that will reply to this,” Çavuşoğlu said. “In fact, being in contact with the YPG [People’s Protection Units] in Syria means being in contact with the PKK.”
Turkey considers the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG military wing as an offshoot of the PKK and therefore urges its allies not to ally with the group in their fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“The PKK and YPG have no differences. The YPG in Syria, the PKK in Turkey and northern Iraq and the PJAK in Iran. They are all the same terror organization,” he said.
No cease-fire with PKK
Turkey conducted the peace process for a long time despite attacks from various parts, the minister said, ruling out the chance for any cease-fire between Turkey and the PKK.
“They talk about a mutual cease-fire. What does this mean? Will we consider a state and a terror organization equal? Can one say that the U.S. and al-Qaeda should mutually drop their arms? Or would the anti-DAESH coalition and DAESH lay their arms down simultaneously?” the minister asked, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Turkey, US agree on new anti-ISIL plan
Turkey and the United States have agreed on a new military action to push extremist jihadists away from the Turkish border by deploying 90-kilometer American missiles on the front line and intensifying the aerial campaign, the Turkish foreign minister has said, urging the international community to lend more support to moderate rebel groups.
“We need to strengthen the opposition group to be able to clear DAESH from this region,” he said, referring to a 98-kilometer strip on the Turkish border stretching from Marea to Jarablus some 48 kilometers into Syria to around the Manbij area.
Support should be given to the oppositional forces from both the land and air, he said. “The range of our artillery is 40 kilometers. The range of US HIMARS missiles is 90 kilometers. They will be deployed on the Turkish border in May. We have agreed with the Americans for the closure of the Manbij area. Our strategy is definite: More forces to be stationed against the DAESH with new groups to be included in them. And more support to be given to opposition forces from both the land and the air.”
The HIMERS missiles will mean ISIL positions can be hit more efficiently, the Turkish minister said.
US in effort to establish new fighting groups
According to the foreign minister, the rift between Turkey and the U.S. over the PYD’s role has caused the latter to seek alternative fighting groups in Syria that exclude the Syrian Kurdish militias.
“Now the Americans are exerting efforts on whether they can establish a force composed of Turkmens and Arabs by excluding the PYD. In fact, there is no complete change in the U.S. policies with regard to the PYD, but they tell us they understand our concerns. The implementation will show us to what extent they have changed their position in regards to the PYD,” the minister said.
‘PYD-Assad row a theater’
Recent clashes between the PYD and pro-Syrian government troops are not important as this is “just a scenario written by some international forces” to legitimatize the PYD in the fight against ISIL, Çavuşoğlu said. “It’s a theater play. It’s a sham fight,” he said. “No one will buy it.”
Turkey, Saudi Arabia to hold joint cabinet meet
Çavuşoğlu visited Saudi Arabia on April 24 before his trip to the UAE and held extensive talks with his Saudi counterparts, as well as King Selman. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have agreed to hold joint cabinet meetings every year, the minister said, with an emphasis on diplomacy, security, the defense industry, trade, economy, investments, energy and education and culture.
“The relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia is not only important for themselves but also for the entire region,” the minister said.
Egypt would collapse if not supported by regional friends
Another important issue on Çavuşoğlu’s agenda in his talks in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi was the ongoing rift between Ankara and Cairo since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi staged a coup to topple Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.
Çavuşoğlu said Turkey in principle disapproved of military coups in any country in the world regardless of the targeted political party or leader, recalling that this stance of the Turkish government had now been understood by Gulf countries as well.
“This is what we have been saying: A strong Egypt is needed for the Arab world, Africa and Palestine. But today’s Egypt is not strong and has no use for anybody. It’s as fragile as it could collapse in the absence of the support of regional countries. We don’t want this. The people of Egypt are our brothers. We know the importance of Egypt, but today’s picture does not provide this,” he said.
There is a need for the formation of a more inclusive government in Egypt for the stability of the country and its people, Çavuşoğlu said, adding that this coldness in ties between the two countries should not go on forever.
“There are steps needed to be taken. This is not an intervention into domestic affairs. There is a problem. We are sharing our opinions to overcome them as the people of Egyptian are our brother,” he added.