PKK 'never respected' peace process
Turkey's foreign minister said Monday that Kurdish rebels "never respected" the peace process with Ankara, with a ceasefire now in tatters after a series of attacks and cross-border offensives.
Militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - who have waged a decades-long insurgency in south-eastern Turkey - "never ended their terrorist acts", Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to Lisbon.
"We never said that the process of peace negotiations was over. But the PKK never respected it," Cavusoglu told the Portuguese news agency LUSA after meeting his Portuguese counterpart Rui Machete. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched peace talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012, but they have yet to yield an accord.
Turkey has mounted a two-pronged offensive targeting both the Islamic State group in Syria and PKK rebels in northern Iraq after a spate of violence including a suicide attack a week ago that killed 32 people and was blamed on IS. On Sunday, the Turkish army blamed PKK militants for a car bombing that killed two soldiers in Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey.
The foreign minister charged that the PKK was "taking advantage of the situation in the region, of the fact that Turkey has begun fighting Daesh (the Arab acronym for IS), and they have stepped up their attacks and terrorist activities in Turkey. That's why we must also reach PKK targets in northern Iraq."
Speaking later at a news conference, Cavusoglu said: "You cannot say that the PKK are better than Daesh because they are fighting against them. They are fighting amongst each other for power, not for peace, or for security." He also accused the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which won 13 percent of the vote in last month's election in Turkey, of being "affiliated with the PKK". The party "could be an important mediator", he said, "but instead they are calling on Kurdish citizens to take up arms, to demonstrate, to disturb public order".
"They should choose between democracy and terrorism," Cavusoglu said.