ANKARA (Combined Sources)—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today vowed to continue to fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the face of mounting attacks on security forces blamed on Kurdish rebels, while co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas has called for an immediate peace.
“Hands should be removed from the trigger. Not tomorrow, not next week, we want peace today, at this hour,” Demirtas said in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in a televised speech in Ankara, President Erdogan said that “the operations will continue,” as Turkey presses on with air strikes on PKK targets in the country’s southeast and in northern Iraq.
“We will never stop in the face of all these attacks. We will continue to fight with determination,” Erdogan added.
Erdogan vowed “no concessions” in the fight against “terror”, saying that “a state subjected to an armed attack has the right to defend [itself] with arms.”
Turkey is currently pressing a two-pronged “anti-terror” offensive against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and PKK militants following a wave of attacks.
But, so far, the air strikes have overwhelmingly concentrated on separatist Kurdish rebels, to the frustration of Western commentators who want to see Turkey ramp up its involvement in the fight against IS.
Demirtas has repeatedly stated that the HDP has never had any relationship with violence and has never opted for arms. He and his party say they want to solve Turkey’s problems one-by-one, “like undoing knots.”
“This starts with silencing the arms. Guns should be silenced without any buts, and dialogue and negotiation channels should be opened. Stop the arms and return to mutual ceasefire positions. Allow resolution opportunities to civil politics. This is what the society wants,” Demirtas said.
The state-run Anatolia news agency reported over the weekend that 390 “terrorists” had been killed so far in the campaign against the PKK.
But the Kurdish rebels have hit back, leaving a 2013 truce declared by the PKK in tatters.
According to an AFP toll, 29 members of Turkey’s security forces have been killed in violence linked to the PKK since the current crisis began.
Erdogan called on the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and much of the international community, to lay down arms and bury them “under concrete.”
Until it does so, the Turkish state would continue its offensive, he said. “The most important task of a state is to protect lives.”
“We extended our hand but they responded with arms,” Erdogan said, referring to the Kurdish militants, reaffirming his verdict that the peace process was now “on ice.”
Picking up on a recent visit to Brussels by Demirtas, Erdogan said: “The party [HDP] that is controlled by a terrorist organization is looking for a solution in Brussels.”
“It has become so alienated from an understanding of its own country and nation that it must look for a solution elsewhere.”
Erdogan also claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama had pleaded with him for Turkey to help prevent the fall of the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane to Islamic State jihadists in 2014.
“Mr. Obama reached me and said ‘there are two days left before Kobane falls.’ And he said ‘here we want to have your help.’”