Erdogan Orders PKK Bombed in Iraq, Vows Payback After Turkish Troops Die
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, under pressure to ensure stability two weeks after replacing the military’s high command, warned that Turkey’s “patience” was exhausted and ordered airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party after the group killed nine soldiers and militiamen.
The attack by the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, was the deadliest since July 14, when 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush that coincided with a Kurdish declaration of autonomy. Within hours of yesterday’s attack, Turkish warplanes crossed the border into Iraq and struck 60 PKK targets, the military said on its website. It also warned of “similar actions” until the “separatist terrorist organization is rendered ineffective.”
“We’re at the end of words, our patience due to Ramadan is over,” Erdogan, 57, said yesterday in televised comments, referring to the Muslim holy month. “Separatist terrorists” and those who don’t distance themselves from them will “pay the price from now on.”
Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party, or AKP, consolidated civilian power over the military after its top brass resigned last month, risks looking like a weak commander if he offers concessions to the Kurds, who have already secured autonomy in neighboring northern Iraq. The premier’s hardening rhetoric and the PKK’s mounting attacks threaten to undermine attempts to meet Kurdish demands and work toward ending the unrest in Turkey that has cost 40,000 lives since 1984.
Since the PKK ended a unilateral cease-fire in February, at least 117 people including its members, police officers and soldiers have been killed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News from military and government reports. More than half have been slain since June, when Erdogan won a third term with 50 percent of the vote, pledging a new national charter that embraces all of Turkey’s population.
“In its third term, the hardest issue to resolve for AKP, even more difficult than a new constitution, is the PKK, and that is now showing,” said Kaan Nazli, director of emerging markets at Medley Global Advisors in New York. “This will poison the constitutional debates.”
Setback for Constitution
Plans for a consensus constitution suffered a setback when 35 lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, refused to join the 550-member parliament in Ankara. The party, which Erdogan accuses of ties with the PKK, is meeting instead in Diyarbakir, in protest over court decisions that prevent five of its imprisoned members from joining the legislature. They are also protesting an electoral-board ruling that stripped one lawmaker of his seat, handing it to the runner-up from Erdogan’s party.
“The government’s approach isn’t trustworthy,” said Cemal Coskun, head of the executive council at the Democratic Society Congress, an umbrella assembly in the majority Kurdish province of Diyarbakir that includes national lawmakers. Kurds declared autonomy in mid-July to establish their demands and protect their rights under the new constitution, he said.
The prime minister removed an obstacle to solving the Kurdish dispute when he asserted civilian control over the military, according to BDP co-leader Filiz Kocali. The premier has also spent billions of dollars building schools, hospitals and roads in the southeast.
Erdogan has supported investigations into alleged coup plots that have put more than 40 serving generals behind bars. Chief of General Staff Isik Kosaner, who quit July 27 along with three top aides, said the probes cast the army as a “criminal gang.”
The National Security Council, the gathering of politicians and generals that debates threats every two months, discussed new tactics to fight the PKK and pledged “no compromise in pursuing a more effective and determined fight against terrorism,” CNN Turk reported, citing a statement. The meeting was the first gathering of the council to include commanders appointed to replace officers who quit.
“Complete civilian rule is being exercised for the first time in Turkey by this government,” said Salih Akyurek, a former army colonel and socio-cultural research specialist at the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies in Ankara. “The government now needs to take responsibility and decide what it will do. No one knows what’s behind the hard rhetoric.”
PKK Ranks Swell
Intelligence reports show that people are joining the PKK as if they’re going for their mandatory military service, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazici said, according to Aksam newspaper. The “big problem” is the swelling of the PKK ranks even though the government has introduced services such as infrastructure, health, transportation and social security, Yazici was cited as saying.
Murat Karayilan, the PKK’s second in command after jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, said in an interview with the pro- Kurdish Firat News Agency that Erdogan is to blame for the latest violence. PKK members will fight and turn the country “upside down,” according to Firat.
The lira fell 0.94 percent to 1.7865 per dollar at 5:51 p.m. in Istanbul, bringing its decline during the past month to 7.6 percent. Stocks lost 4.2 percent to 51,945.93, taking losses to 21 percent in the last month, the most among global bourses after the Ukrainian Equities Index.
The Turkish soldiers’ deaths overshadowed a visit yesterday by Speaker Cemil Cicek to the two opposition parties in parliament to discuss work on the new constitution.
The general approach of all parties is to create a consensus committee, Cicek said, adding that concrete steps will follow the end of Ramadan celebrations Sept. 1.
“If these events escalate, naturally the constitutional process will be delayed,” said Ozer Sencar, head of Ankara- based polling company MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research. “The prime minister’s words will turn into action, an operation, because after all these funerals and a declaration of autonomy, if the government stays silent it will imply that Erdogan is helpless. That doesn’t fit his character and leadership style.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Emre Peker in Ankara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com.
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