ANKARA: Turkey yesterday accused the United States of supporting “terrorists” and summoned its ambassador after Washington refused to immediately back Ankara’s claim that Kurdish militants were executing 13 of its nationals in Iraq. The Turkish Interior Ministry also announced the detention of hundreds of people it accuses of links with rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who allegedly killed the 13 hostages in an Iraqi cave.
The PKK blamed the Turkish airstrikes for the death in a diplomacy-laden episode that poses an immediate challenge to President Joe Biden’s new US administration in the Middle East. Ankara said on Sunday that the hostages – mostly soldiers and police – were executed as Turkish forces advanced on a rescue operation launched in the mountains of northern Iraq last week.
Turkish anger was directed at a statement by the US State Department on Sunday saying that Washington “deplores the deaths of Turkish citizens” but is awaiting further confirmation of Ankara’s version of events. “If the reports of the deaths of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest terms,” the State Department said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Washington’s response a “farce”. “You said you did not support the terrorists when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” he said in televised remarks. The Turkish Foreign Ministry then summoned US Ambassador David Satterfield to express Ankara’s discontent “in the strongest possible terms”.
Later yesterday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that “PKK terrorists” were responsible for the deaths of Turkish hostages in northern Iraq. “The secretary expressed his condolences for the deaths of Turkish hostages in northern Iraq and affirmed our view that the PKK terrorists bear the responsibility,” State Department spokesman Ned said. Price in a press release.
The militants of the PKK lead since 1984 an insurrection against the Turkish state which is said to have left tens of thousands of deaths. The group is recognized as a terrorist organization by Washington and most of Turkey’s other Western allies. But Washington is working in Syria with another Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a branch of the PKK.
A breakdown in the peace talks between the PKK and Ankara in 2015 was followed by Turkish military campaigns against militants in the region and mass arrests of pro-Kurdish politicians and officials in Turkey. Turkey’s Interior Ministry said yesterday it had detained 718 people – including leaders of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) – in towns and districts across the country in a series of coordinated raids.
The HDP is Turkey’s second largest opposition party. He denies any formal link with the PKK but also questions Turkey’s account of the 13 deaths. We “express our deepest regrets and condolences to the families and relatives of these 13 people who were in no way able to protect themselves against an armed attack,” the HDP said in a statement on Sunday.
The incident threatens to escalate tensions across Iraq and Syria while quickly testing Erdogan’s relationship with Biden. Turkey has long accused the Iraqi government of being too tolerant of the PKK. Ankara also wants Washington to renounce the Kurdish militia in Syria that it supports against President Bashar Al-Assad because of its alleged links with the PKK. Rather, he wants Washington to reaffirm its support for Turkey’s counterterrorism campaign.
Erdogan said Turkey’s NATO allies had to choose sides. “If we want to be together in NATO, you have to be sincere. You should not be on the side of the terrorists, ”Erdogan said. “After that, there are two options. Either act with Turkey without ifs or buts, without asking questions, or she will be a partner in every murder and bloodshed, ”he said. “The terrorist organization at our doorstep, at our borders, is killing innocent people.”
Erdogan’s rebuke of the United States contrasts with his efforts in recent months to adopt a softer tone and mend torn relations with the West. Erdogan is still waiting for a phone call from Biden that could help set the tone for future US-Turkey relations. – AFP
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