Turkey’s Erdogan signals talks with Kurdish militants possible
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan signalled that new talks between the state and Kurdish militants might be possible as his government faces an upsurge in separatist violence in the country’s southeast.
Turkish intelligence officials have maintained contact with senior figures from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in recent years to try to end a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, but discussions have broken down.
“Regarding Imrali, there could be more talks,” Erdogan said in a televised interview with broadcaster Kanal 7 late on Wednesday, referring to the island south of Istanbul where PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is imprisoned.
“There is a military dimension to this, a security dimension which is separate and will continue. But beside this there is a diplomatic, socio-economic and psychological dimension,” he said.
Erdogan spoke after Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party called for the resumption of talks between the state and the PKK to prevent a further escalation of violence.
Clashes in recent months between Turkey’s armed forces and militants from the PKK - considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and European Union - have been among the heaviest since the group took up arms 28 years ago.
Ankara has also linked the surge in violence to the unrest in neighbouring Syria. Erdogan has accused President Bashar al-Assad of arming the PKK militants, and raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria if the PKK were to launch attacks from Syrian soil.
The head of Turkey’s armed forces said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday the military also had the capability to launch a sustained operation against the PKK in northern Iraq.
Erdogan gave the interview days before his ruling AK Party’s congress where he is expected to set out the party’s future as it goes through its biggest overhaul since coming to power a decade ago.
Since elections in June last year, the conflict with the PKK has killed more than 700 people, according to the International Crisis Group, the highest toll in a 15-month period since Ocalan was captured and jailed in 1999.