Pro-Kurdish Turkey Opposition Leader Receives Welcome in Moscow

  • HDP chief critical of Turkish shooting down of Russia warplane
  • Turkish government assailed Demirtas for visiting Russia

The leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party received a high-level welcome in Moscow in a visit criticized by the government in Ankara amid acute tensions over the shooting down of a Russian warplane.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party, known as HDP, told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at talks on Wednesday that his party criticized Turkey’s downing of the plane near the Syrian border last month, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news service reported.

Russia’s dispute with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t change its traditionally “friendly ties” with Turkey’s people, Lavrov said.

Erdogan has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands for an apology over the Nov. 24 incident, the most serious confrontation between Russia and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in decades. Turkey said the Su-24 jet violated its airspace, which Russia denies. Russia retaliated by imposing economic sanctions against Turkey and bolstering its air defenses in Syria, where it’s been conducting airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad against Islamic State and other militant groups for almost three months.

Visit Criticized

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday accused the HDP leader of unpatriotic behavior. “Why are they visiting a country that we’re having a crisis with at exactly this moment?” Hurriyet newspaper cited Davutoglu as saying in the Turkish parliament. “Their ethics is of cooperating with anyone who has a problem with Turkey, instead of acting together with the nation.”

HDP lost a quarter of its seats in parliamentary elections in November, shrinking to 59 from 80 in a June vote, as the ruling AK party swept back into office by regaining its majority.

Turkey has complex ties with Kurdish groups in the region. It regards the PKK, a group seeking autonomy for Kurds in Turkey, as a terrorist organization, along with its Syrian affiliates, while it’s also been training Kurdish peshmergas fighting Islamic State in Iraq. It provides the sole route to market for the oil industry in Kurdish northern Iraq.

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