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Turkey Targets PKK in Iraq After Deadly Mine Blast


Turkey's military says its warplanes have attacked Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq, following a landmine explosion that killed six Turkish soldiers and wounded eight others. Meanwhile several pro-Kurdish party members of parliament are under investigation.

The Kurdish rebel's senior commander, Murat Karayilan, said recently his PKK no longer sought an independent Kurdish state, but recognition of Kurdish rights and identity.

The gesture has been interpreted as an olive branch that could help in ending the PKK's 25-year-long conflict with Turkey that has cost 40,000 lives.

Parliamentary foreign affairs spokesman Suat Knikliogllu says the country could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

"This is the time when the most courageous and important steps in the Kurdish question might be taken," he said. "There is much more harmony in the upper echelons of Turkish decision making namely the Turkish armed forces, the government, the presidency and I think the majority of our society, understands that the Kurdish question is the number one priority of this country, as our president recently said."

But for the last few weeks, the country's main Kurdish political party, the Democratic Society Party, is facing an intense crackdown by state prosecutors and the security forces.

Prosecutors are demanding to question five Kurdish deputies, but the deputies are refusing to cooperate, citing parliamentary immunity. The impasse could result in a political crisis.

Police launched raids at party offices and trade unions for alleged links with the PKK rebel groups. The timing of the crackdown is unfortunate, says government member Suat Kiniklioglu.

"One wishes it would not happen now, but you should not forget that there is not one singular arm in Turkey that directs everything on the Kurdish question. There are many other circles in Turkey which have very different opinions about how this issue should be solved or solved at all," added Kiniklioglu. "But we as a government are believing there is right now an opportunity that could maybe result in an historic solution of this issue."

The government is expected in the coming weeks to announce a Kurdish reform program aimed at ending the conflict with the PKK. But critics question the sincerity of the government while it still refuses to talk with the Democratic Society Party. All eyes are now on Turkish President Abdullah Gul who has made ending the conflict his number-one priority.

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