Posted tagged ‘PKK’

Turkey’s Erdogan Goes Full-Dictator: Designates Journalists And Teachers As “Terrorists”; Arrests Lawyers

March 17, 2016

Turkey’s Erdogan Goes Full-Dictator: Designates Journalists And Teachers As “Terrorists”; Arrests Lawyers TSubmitted

by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2016 02:00 -0400

Source: Turkey’s Erdogan Goes Full-Dictator: Designates Journalists And Teachers As “Terrorists”; Arrests Lawyers | Zero Hedge

“It is not only the person who pulls the trigger, but those who made that possible who should be defined as terrorists, regardless of their title,” Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan said on Monday, in an attempt to convince parliament to include journalists, politicians, academics, and activists under the country’s anti-extremism laws.

Erdogan’s comments came a day after the latest in a string of suicide bombings ripped through Ankara, killing 34 and wounding more than 100 in Kizilay. Since then, Turkey has arrested nearly 50 people with “suspected ties” to the PKK against which Erdogan is waging a highly personal crusade.

Apparently, the President doesn’t think parliament is moving fast enough on his “request” to expand the definition of “terrorist” because in a speech on Wednesday, he effectively instructed lawmakers to get moving before also urging parliament to deal with “the issue of immunities.”

Erdogan desperately wants to prosecute HDP members who he says are guilty of “inciting terrorism.” “We must swiftly finalize the issue of immunities,” he said. “Parliament must take steps on this issue swiftly,” he added, as if the first statement was in some way unclear.

(Erdogan gets it, why don’t you?)

But frankly, we’re not even sure why he bothers parliament with these things. Erdogan is going to do whatever Erdogan wants to do. We’re talking about a man who arrested two of the country’s preeminent journalists and had the nerve to charge them with “deliberately aiding a terrorist organization” when what they were in fact doing was exposing Erdogan for… wait for it… deliberately aiding a terrorist organization.

And if that’s not absurd enough for you, there are countless other examples including an incident which saw a medical doctor put on trial for posting a picture of the President next to a picture of a fictional creature from a Tolkein novel on social media.

Turks are in fact so scared of their “leader” that just last month, a Turkish truck driver literally sued his own wife for cursing at Erdogan when he spoke on television. “I warned her,” the man later said.

True to form, Erdogan didn’t wait on parliament to expand the definition of “terrorist” before he went ahead and arrested three academics for “terrorist propaganda” after they made the mistake of publicly asking the government to stop the siege on Cizre and other cities in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

“More than 2,000 academics signed a petition in January criticizing military action in the southeast, including round-the-clock curfews aimed at rooting out PKK militants who have barricaded themselves in residential areas in southeastern cities,” Reuters notes. “The petition outraged President Erdogan, who said the academics would pay a price for their ‘treachery’“.

A few days ago, a group of lawyers made the mistake of holding a press conference to defend the academics who signed the aforementioned petition. On Tuesday, Erdogan arrested the lawyers too.

Finally, when a British citizen who teaches at Bilgi University showed up at the courthouse to support the lawyers, he was also arrested. His crime, in his own words: “I am accused because I had several invitations to Kurdish new year (celebrations on March 21) published by the HDP – the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament – in my bag.”

So there you go. Lessons learned all around we suppose.

Better still, the President says he plans to start campaigning in April for his long-planned push to expand the powers of the presidency (because clearly he’s not powerful enough). Erdogan will look to rewrite the constitution (literally) in order that it might, in Bloomberg’s words, “feature a strengthened presidency while retaining a key role for the parliament.”

Yes, “a key role for parliament,” where the third largest party is about to have their immunity stripped away so that Erdogan can prosecute the whole lot of them for being terrorists.

Erdogan, Bloomberg goes on to write, “has devoted much energy to expanding the executive role of what’s traditionally been a largely ceremonial post, arguing that strong leadership will help extend a record of economic growth [but] only holds 317 seats in the 550-member parliament, short of the 330 votes needed to take a new charter to a public vote.”

Trust us. He’ll get it to a referendum. Votes or no votes. And then he’ll rig the referendum.

Clearly, Nihat Ali Ozcan at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara (who spoke to Bloomberg) doesn’t get it: “The PKK is engaged in a direct confrontation with Erdogan with the aim of preventing him from turning his office into an executive presidency. However, Erdogan may benefit from a growing nationalist backlash in his campaign for a presidential system, as long as he maintains his crackdown on the PKK.”

Gee, do you think so?

That’s been the entire gambit since last June’s elections. Erdogan lost ground to the pro-Kurdish HDP and so, he used the war on ISIS as an excuse to deliberately restart the conflict with the PKK in order to convince the public that it needs his protection lest the entire country should descend into chaos. Three months and a whole lot of lost lives later, AKP performed better in a November redo election that Erdogan – gun to his head – was “forced” to call when the coalition building process was sabotaged fell apart in August.

We have no doubt that Erdogan will succeed one way or another in his bid to rewrite the constitution. Even if it kills him. Or wait. No. Even if it kills you.

Turkey warplanes hit Kurdish PKK camps in northern Iraq

March 14, 2016

Turkey warplanes hit Kurdish PKK camps in northern Iraq – Turkish army

Published time: 14 Mar, 2016 08:16 Edited time: 14 Mar, 2016 09:27

Source: Turkey warplanes hit Kurdish PKK camps in northern Iraq – Turkish army — RT News

© Murad Sezer
Turkish warplanes bombed camps belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the north of Iraq early on Monday, Turkey’s army has confirmed. The strikes come less than 24 hours after a car bomb in Ankara killed at least 37 people.

A total of 11 fighter jets were involved in the bombardment of the PKK positions. Eighteen targets were hit, including ammunition depots and shelters, the Turkish military said in a statement, as cited by Reuters.

Turkey believes the PKK is a terrorist organization and Ankara has blamed the Kurdish separatist group for a number of recent terrorist attacks in the country, including Sunday’s car bomb at a transport hub in the Turkish capital, which killed at least 37 people and injured dozens more.

Turkish security officials claimed on Monday that a woman who joined the PKK in 2013 was one of the two suspects behind the car bombing in Ankara, according to Reuters. They said that the woman was born in 1992 and was from the eastern Turkish city of Kars.

Read more

Turkish F-16 fighter jets. © Fatih Saribas

Speaking after the attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would bring terrorism “to its knees,” and that the Turkish state would “never give up using its right of self-defense.”

“All of our security forces, with its soldiers, police and village guards, have been conducting a determined struggle against terror organizations at the cost of their lives,” Erdogan said in a written statement, as cited by the Hurriyet Daily News. “These attacks, which threaten our country’s integrity and our nation’s unity and solidarity, do not weaken our resolve in fighting terrorism but bolster our determination,” he added.

The Turkish Air Force bombed at least five PKK targets in Iraq on March 9, with Ankara claiming 67 militants were killed.

On December 9, 10 Turkish F-16 fighter jets targeted Kurdish positions in northern Iraq, with the Turkish military saying that its targets were “destroyed in an aerial campaign.

These strikes came days after Turkey had deployed about 150 troops and 25 tanks to a base in Iraq’s Nineveh province, without bothering to get permission from Baghdad. Ankara argued that its soldiers were sent to northern Iraq after a threat from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) to Turkish military instructors training anti-terrorist forces in the area.

Erdogan had rejected a request from Baghdad to withdraw the troops, claiming that the Turkish military is present in Iraq “as instructors.”

A two-year truce to a decades-long conflict between Ankara and the Kurds was shattered in July. Turkey has launched a security crackdown in the predominantly Kurdish south east of Turkey, while also striking Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday, Turkey announced it would implement a new 24-hour curfew in the south-eastern town of Sirnak to try and carry out operations against Kurdish militants.

Speaking to RT, Ertugrul Kurkcu, Honorary President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said that Ankara’s crackdown was failing to distinguish between the militants and the general civilian population who support Kurdish rights.

“This is a crackdown not on the PKK, but on the civilian population and Kurds who have been supporting our party, who have been supporting Kurds’ rights,” he said.

“And they were targeted during this crackdown. The government’s figures are incorrect… According to our figures, until this day, 652 civilians have lost their lives during the curfew in the cities of Cizre, Silopi, Sirnak and Nusaybin. And of these, 97 are children and 94 are women.”

Chilling revelations: Diyarbakır, city of the dead and missing (RT EXCLUSIVE)

March 12, 2016

Chilling revelations: Diyarbakır, city of the dead and missing (RT EXCLUSIVE)

Published time: 12 Mar, 2016 09:22

Source: Chilling revelations: Diyarbakır, city of the dead and missing (RT EXCLUSIVE) — RT News

An RT crew has visited Diyarbakır, the unofficial capital of the Turkish Kurds, to throw light on the gruesome consequences of Turkey’s crackdown on the Kurdish population. RT’s William Whiteman talked to the relatives of one of the victims.

RT took an exclusive look into the mass killings of civilians allegedly committed by the Turkish military, filming the mourning of those who lost their loved ones as a result of the ongoing crackdown.

Read more

Buildings, which were damaged during the security operations and clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, are seen in the southeastern town of Cizre in Sirnak province, Turkey March 2, 2016. © Sertac Kayar

Friday prayers in Diyarbakir have also become a manifestation of the deep divide between the locals and the Turkish government.

In a further effort to quash Kurdish descent, Turkish authorities now require imams to read government-approved sermons. Thousands of local Kurds are protesting this move by boycotting the city’s main mosque and holding prayers in a nearby park.

The imam speaks in both Kurdish and Turkish, condemning the government’s actions.

RT’s William Whiteman witnessed Turkish military helicopters flying overhead in Diyarbakir, while the explosions and gunfire of the continuing military operation could be heard.

In the city’s Sur district, Turkish security services have continuously waged a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated groups, as part of the ongoing government operation across the region.

Whiteman spoke to the weeping mother of 17-year-old girl Rozerin Cukur. She was killed in a military bombardment of Sur while she was visiting the district with friends in early January. With access to the area now cut off by the fighting, her body has never been recovered. Sadly, she is one of many such cases.

Rozerin’s father, Mustafa, could be found at a nearby memorial for the missing dead.

“We saw the news of her death reported on state TV and the internet. The reports included Rozerin’s ID information, discovered beside her body,” the father told RT.

Through hunger striking, the families here have managed to pressure the government into returning just two of the missing bodies. But the condition they were in was appalling.

“Of the bodies that have been recovered, parts of their flesh and internal organs had been eaten by a stray dog,” Mustafa said. “The bodies were riddled with thousands of bullet holes. It seems that the military continued to shoot them long after they were dead.”

“They were only identifiable through DNA testing,” Mustafa claimed.

RT spoke to the co-presidents of the local Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) branch about the plight of these families.

“Of the local residents killed in Sur, 14 bodies are yet to be recovered. They have been lying in the open for a long time, first under the siege, and now under the curfew,” Ömer Önen, co-president of HDP office of Diyarbakir, told RT. “Without the bodies, the families have been unable to hold funerals.”

Önen explained that by denying the people in Diyarbakir the right to give their loved ones a traditional Islamic burial, the Turkish government is violating human rights and the sanctity of religious traditions.

Every Saturday in Diyarbakir, the families of people who disappeared during the peak of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in the 1980s and ‘90s gather to demand information on their missing loved ones. Now they are being joined by the families of new victims, with Rozerin’s parents among them.

Previously RT showed exclusive footage from the city of Cizre, destroyed by Turkish government forces during an anti-Kurdish military operation that ended there only two days ago.

The Turkish government offensive on the mostly Kurdish southeastern regions of the country was launched back in July of 2015 with strict 24-hour curfews imposed on several Kurdish towns.

On Friday RT requested comments on the ongoing anti-Kurdish crackdown in Turkey from aid groups and rights organizations, such as HRW, MSF International, the ICRC, the OHCHR, and Amnesty International. There has been no answer so far.

In the meantime, Turkey has claimed it will continue its operations against Kurdish militia – to ensure peace in the region.

“We will continue our operations to eliminate the PKK. This is necessary to ensure peace in the region,” said Efkan Ala, the Turkish interior minister.

Washington says Ankara has the right to fight terrorists, but only within international law.

“While we have certainly acknowledged Turkey’s right to defend itself against terrorists, and the PKK is a terrorist organization that we have recognized [as such], we have also, and I’ve said it many times from this podium, called on [Turkey] to do so in accordance with the international law and obligations that they [Turkey] have,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Turkey bombs multiple PKK locations in northern Iraq, 67 militants killed

March 12, 2016

Turkey bombs multiple PKK locations in northern Iraq, 67 militants killed

Published time: 12 Mar, 2016 17:02

Source: Turkey bombs multiple PKK locations in northern Iraq, 67 militants killed — RT News

Turkish F-16 fighter jets. © Fatih Saribas / Reuters

The Turkish Air Force has delivered airstrikes in at least five locations on the territory of neighboring Iraq, targeting strongholds of the Kurdish militia, various media reported. The Turkish military claims 67 militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been killed.
Read more

© Umit Bektas

Turkish warplanes have attacked PKK targets in northern Iraq, including the headquarters of the PKK leadership situated right on the Iraq-Iran border in the Qandil Mountains, reportedly hitting the settlements of Avasin, Basyan, Haftanin, Metina and Qandil, Reuters reports, citing the army.

The airstrikes took place on Wednesday, March 9, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. The agency cites an unnamed security source who claimed that 14 F-16 and F-4 fighter jets participated in the assault, bombing PKK camps, arms depots and bunkers.

READ MORE: ‘We are afraid but won’t leave our land’: Syrian Kurds who survived Turkish shelling tell RT

Beginning July 2015, after the two-year truce between Ankara and the Kurds was scrapped, Turkey has been delivering regular airstrikes against Kurdish militia in neighboring Iraq and shelling Kurdish settlements in Syria as well.

The PKK is demanding autonomy for Kurds in Turkey’s south-east, and is listed as terrorist organization #1 by the Turkish government.

READ MORE: ‘Out of question’: Erdogan rules out Turkish troop withdrawal from Iraq

In early December 2015, Turkey deployed about 150 troops and 25 tanks to a base in Iraq’s Nineveh province, without bothering to get permission from Baghdad. Ankara argued that its soldiers were sent to northern Iraq after a threat from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) to Turkish military instructors training anti-terrorist forces in the area.

Read more

© Umit Bektas

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected a request from Baghdad to withdraw the troops, claiming that the Turkish military is present in Iraq “as instructors.”

On Friday, Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that Ankara is preparing another military operation against the Kurdish PPK in the country’s south-east. The minister announced plans to introduce curfews in three districts, saying that eight other districts have been “cleared of terrorists.”

In an interview Friday at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov criticized Turkey for shelling Kurdish positions on Syrian territory, alleging that Ankara is turning a blind eye to arms supplies to terrorists.

Gatilov stressed that such practices must stop in order “to provide a more constructive atmosphere for the intra-Syrian talks and a more durable cease-fire,” Bloomberg reported.

EXCLUSIVE: Turkey ‘protects & supplies’ Al-Nusra camps at its border – Syria’s YPG to RT

March 4, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Turkey ‘protects & supplies’ Al-Nusra camps at its border – Syria’s YPG to RT

Published time: 4 Mar, 2016 05:04 Edited time: 4 Mar, 2016 09:51

Source: EXCLUSIVE: Turkey ‘protects & supplies’ Al-Nusra camps at its border – Syria’s YPG to RT — RT News

And now a statement from the State Department ?

Read also :

Jabhat Al-Nusra terrorists have pitched their camps right next to the border and receive regular supplies from the Turkish side, Syrian Kurdish forces told RT’s Lizzie Phelan, who traveled with YPG to investigate suspicious activity there.

An RT crew has filmed a number of vehicles coming through the Bab al-Salam crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border, on the outskirts of the northern town of Azaz, which is partially controlled by Al-Nusra, according to reports.

“We can actually see here the important border town of Azaz, that Turkey is determined to prevent YPG from taking. Just a little beyond that you can see the Bab al-Salam border crossing and a heavy flow of vehicles coming from Turkey into Azaz,” the RT correspondent said, reporting from the Turkey-Syria border, an area that TV crews rarely gain access to.

“When we zoom in we can see Turkish military vehicles, probably around a kilometer away, maybe less. And just in front here’s another small village that YPG say Al-Nusra uses for training,” Phelan said.

“Beyond that we can see the Turkish flag flying, that’s on the Turkish side of the border, and through there the YPG says they monitor a regular supply of weapons coming from Turkey to that Al-Nusra camp.”

2.&just a few km from Nusra controlled Azaz that is determined 2 prevent YPG from taking.

There were reports of dozens of Turkish military vehicles crossing into Kurdish northern Syria, with servicemen digging trenches in the area. Turkey’s “provocative” military buildup on the border and shelling of the Syrian territory could thwart the fragile truce and disrupt the peace process in the Arab Republic, the head of the Russian ceasefire monitoring center Lt. Gen. Sergey Kuralenko said this week.

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A general view shows the Kurdish city of Afrin, in Aleppo's countryside March 18, 2015. © Mahmoud Hebbo

The ceasefire in Syria, which came into force on February 27, brokered by leading world powers, including the US and Russia, is designed to pave the way to reconciliation between the Syrian government and moderate rebel forces. They would together agree on a peaceful transition in the country. Some of the forces in Syria, including IS and Al-Nusra, are not subject to the ceasefire.

Experts have been criticizing moderate rebel forces, but even they think that the situation is shifting now.

Moderate rebels used to be “a fable, a pure lie,” Syrian political analyst Taleb Ibrahim told RT.

“Everyone remembers what happened to the rebels who had been trained in Turkish camps by the CIA, and when they returned to Syria, and turned to Al-Nusra Front”.

However, the situation is starting to change slowly, as more and more Syrian rebel fighters “discover that they are destroying their country and serving external plans to divide Syria.”

Russian aircraft continue to carry out airstrikes against Al-Nusra front militants to “stabilize the situation” in the regions north of the city of Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

READ MORE: Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade

There have been at least 31 violations of the Syrian ceasefire over the past three days, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday, adding that during the same period the number of local ceasefire agreements between various factions had increased to 38.

Turkish military repeatedly shell Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack

February 14, 2016

Turkish military repeatedly shell Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack

Published time: 13 Feb, 2016 16:17 Edited time: 14 Feb, 2016 00:56

Source: Turkish military repeatedly shell Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack — RT News

The Turkish army has shelled Syrian government forces in Aleppo and Latakia provinces, while also hitting Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels, with a massive attack.

Anatolia news agency reported that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

Turkish artillery targeted Syrian forces again late on Saturday, according to a military source quoted by RIA Novosti. The attack targeted the town of Deir Jamal in the Aleppo Governorate.

The agency also cited details of an earlier attack on Syrian government army positions in northwestern Latakia.

“Turkey’s artillery opened fire on the positions of the Syrian Army in the vicinity of Aliya mountain in the northwestern part of the province of Latakia,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.

The shelling targeted the Menagh military air base and the nearby village of Maranaz, where “many civilians were wounded,” local journalist Barzan Iso told RT. He added that Kurdish forces and their allies among “the Syrian democratic forces” had taken control of the air base on Thursday.

According to Iso, the Menagh base had previously been controlled by the Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist rebel group, which seized it in August of 2013. The journalist also added that Ahrar ash-Sham militants at the base had been supported by Al-Nusra terrorists and some extremist groups coming from Turkey.

Ahrar ash-Sham is a militant group that has trained teenagers to commit acts of terror in Damascus, Homs, and Latakia provinces, according to data provided to the Russian Defense Ministry by Syrian opposition forces.

The group, which has intensified its attacks on the Syrian government forces since January, was getting “serious reinforcements from Turkey,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow on January 21.

A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.

The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.

A Turkish security official told Reuters that the shelling of the Kurds had been a response to a shelling of Turkish border military outposts by the PYD and forces loyal to Damascus, as required under Turkish military rules of engagement.

Turkey’s PM Davutoglu also confirmed that the country’s forces had struck Syrian Kurdish fighters and demanded that the Kurds retreat from all of the areas that they had recently seized.

“The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area and will not go close to it again,” he told reporters, adding that Turkey “will retaliate against every step [by the YPG],” Reuters reports.

A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz.

According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.

Syrian Kurds are actively engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group and have been recently described as “some of the most successful” forces fighting IS jihadists in Syria by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, AFP reports.

Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”

Read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 13, 2016. © Michael Dalder

Turkey’s shelling of the Syrian Kurds comes just days after a plan to end hostilities in Syria was presented in Munich after a meeting of the so-called International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura participated.

‘We will strike PYD’ – Turkish PM

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened Syrian Kurds with military action, saying that Turkey will resort to force against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if it considers the step “necessary.”

As I have said, the link between the YPG and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security, then we will do what is necessary,” Davutoglu said on February 10, as quoted by the Hurriyet Daily.

“The leadership cadre and ideology of the PKK and PYD is the same,” he argued in a televised speech in the eastern city of Erzincan on Saturday, AFP reports.

Davutoglu also said that if there is a threat to Turkey, “we will strike PYD like we did Qandil,” referring to a bombing campaign waged by Turkey against the PKK in its Qandil mountain stronghold in northern Iraq, Daily Sabah reports.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decade-long insurgency against Turkish authorities, demanding autonomy for Turkish Kurds.

The latest developments come as Turkey continues a relentless crackdown on Kurds in its southeastern region. Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish insurgents from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July of 2015, breaking a ceasefire signed in 2013.

Turkey’s General Staff claim that Turkish forces killed more than 700 PKK rebels during the offensive in the southeastern districts of Cizre and Sur. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that at least 150 civilians, including women in children, were killed in the Turkish military operation, adding that over 200,000 lives have been put at risk.

According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have been murdered in the area since August of 2015.


Erdoğan to US: Choose either Turkey or the PYD as your partner

February 7, 2016

Erdoğan to US: Choose either Turkey or the PYD as your partner

February 07, 2016, Sunday/ 10:51:35/

Source: Erdoğan to US: Choose either Turkey or the PYD as your partner

Erdoğan to US: Choose either Turkey or the PYD as your partner

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (Photo: Reuters)

In one of his strongest remarks to date, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lambasted the US after a senior official’s visit last week to the northern Syrian town of Kobani, which is under the control of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and called on Washington to choose either Turkey or “terrorists in Kobani” as a partner.

Erdoğan directed severe criticism at the visit to the town by Brett McGurk, US President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the anti-Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition. The visit came at a time where Geneva peace talks were taking place, and the Turkish president declared that the US should make a choice between the PYD and Turkey.

Erdoğan has called on the US and the European Union to list the major Syrian Kurdish political party and its armed wing as terrorist organizations over their affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is fighting against the Turkish state and which is regarded as a terrorist group by Washington and Brussels.

“Do you accept the PKK as a terrorist organization? Then why don’t you list the PYD and [People’s Protection Units] YPG as terrorist organizations, too?” Erdoğan asked while speaking to reporters on Friday on board a plane en route to Turkey from a week-long Latin America tour

This is not the first time Erdoğan has made such a call. His and other senior Turkish leaders’ calls reflect a split between Ankara and its allies over how to treat the Syrian Kurdish party and its armed faction.

The Kurdish militia the YPG has been a reliable ally in the fight against ISIL on the ground and has benefited from the US arms supply on several occasions.

While the US and EU share Turkey’s view toward the PKK and sees it as a terrorist organization, they differ in their views regarding the PYD and YPG.

During his visit, McGurk met with senior PYD and YPG officials and pledged further support for Syrian Kurds. He also visited a cemetery and paid his respects to YPG fighters killed during a months-long battle with ISIL in Kobani.

It was the first time a top US official has visited the YPG-controlled town, reflecting the type of relationship the US and the PYD enjoy. The US airdropped weapons and munitions during the siege of Kobani.

“We discovered advanced Russian, US and European weapons in PKK cells during military operations in southeastern Turkey. Where do these weapons come from?” the Turkish president asked, revealing Turkey’s growing anxiety that some of the weapons provided by the US and EU to the YPG end up in PKK hands.

“The PKK is a terrorist organization and the YPG is too. The PYD is what the PKK is. [US Vice President] Joe Biden came with an official. A national security official [Obama’s envoy]. He visits Kobani at the time of the Geneva talks and is awarded a plaque by a so-called YPG general. How can we trust [you]?” Erdoğan said, expressing his dismay over McGurk’s visit.

McGurk was given a plaque by YPG official Polat Can, a former PKK member. It sparked a harsh reaction from Ankara as Erdoğan called on the US to choose, saying, “Am I your ally or are the ‘terrorists’ in Kobani?”

Erdoğan also repeated his criticism of Russian air strikes in Syria. The Turkish president said on Friday that Russia must be held accountable for the people it has killed in Syria, arguing that Moscow and Damascus were together responsible for 400,000 deaths there.

While speaking at a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart during a brief stopover in the West African country on Friday, Erdoğan also dismissed a Russian statement that Turkey was preparing for an incursion in Syria, saying he is “laughing” at the claim.

Ankara has dismissed this as propaganda intended to conceal Russia’s own “crimes.”

Erdoğan said Russia was engaged in an invasion of Syria and accused it of trying to set up a “boutique state” for its longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad.

“Russia must be held accountable for the people it has killed within Syria’s borders,” the Doğan news agency quoted him as saying. “By cooperating with the regime, the number of people they have killed has reached 400,000.”

His comments are likely to further anger Moscow. Relations between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia hit their worst low in recent memory last November after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Ankara said had violated Turkish airspace from Syria.

Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq

February 6, 2016

Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq Uğur Ergan



Source: Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq – CRIME

The Turkish military has launched a wide-scale air campaign on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq.

The operation which started on Feb. 3 continued on Feb. 4, military sources have told Hürriyet.

Unmanned areal vehicles, fuel feed planes and AWACS surveillance jets accompanied Turkish Air Force F-4E and F-16 jets during strikes on the PKK targets in the neighboring country, the sources said.

Some 40 jets that took of for bases in Diyarbakır, Malatya, Bandırma, Ankara-Akıncı and Merzifon his some 100 targets on the Kandil Mountain, known as ground for the PKK headquarters, on Feb. 3 before they bombed four other points else than Kandil the next day, they said.

Some 50 targets, including a group of PKK members who were in a meeting, were hit on the second day of the operation.

The same sources said PKK targets in Turkey’s Hakkari in the southeast were also hit on Feb. 4.


Report: Turkey suspects Russia building air base near border with Syria

January 22, 2016

Report: Turkey suspects Russia building air base near border with Syria

January 22, 2016, Friday/ 14:41:44/ TODAY’S ZAMAN

Source: Report: Turkey suspects Russia building air base near border with Syria

 Report: Turkey suspects Russia building air base near border with Syria

Turkish troops and military vehicles are seen on the Turkish-Syrian border near the Syrian town of Qamishli in this May 2015 file photo. (Photo: DHA)

Turkish authorities reportedly have intelligence suggesting that Russia might be preparing to establish an air base close to Turkey’s border with Syria, a step likely to deepen tensions that flared between the two countries after Turkish warplanes downed a Russian fighter jet in November last year, according to a report.

A Russian delegation led by a lieutenant general flew to the northern Syrian town of Qamishli, right across the border from Nusaybin in southeastern Turkey, on Jan. 16, a news report published in the Hürriyet daily said, quoting unnamed security sources.

Qamishli is being controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish group that is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group. Ankara opposes PYD efforts to expand its influence in northern Syria, saying it is a terrorist organization that is no different from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Russian delegation conducted extensive inspections in and around the airport in Qamishli, according to the sources. The delegation, which included officials from Russian military intelligence, was accompanied by representatives from the PYD.

Turkish sources suspect that the delegation’s visit is a part of Russian plans to renovate the airport in the town so that it can be turned into a base for warplanes and military cargo planes. This would also entail the installation of radars that would be able to closely monitor Turkish military activities in the area.

After reports that Russia deployed troops to YPG-controlled Qamishli, the Turkish military reinforced the Syrian border with additional tanks and armored vehicles and has started to dig trenches on the border as a security measure.

The Turkish armed forces are now digging trenches on the Turkish side of the border opposite an airport in Qamishli. A large minefield lies between Nusaybin, a Turkish border town in the southeastern province of Mardin, and Qamishli in Syria.

The deployment of Russian troops and military experts to conduct examinations in Kurdish-controlled Qamishli has brought tension between the two countries to a dangerous new level, increasing the prospect of an inadvertent encounter in the area.

These events come after media reports yesterday of an agreement between the US and the YPG for the US to use an airfield in the YPG-controlled part of Hasakah province in northeastern Syria. US military experts are now working to expand the airfield so as to deploy American aerial vehicles, including UAVS, for strikes against ISIL.

The recent developments reveal the complicated nature of geopolitics and the rapidly shifting alignments in Syria’s combustible battlefield, with countless numbers of actors seeking to carve out zones of influence for themselves. Syrian Kurds, who have adopted a non-aligned stance in the Syrian civil war, have cultivated close ties with both the US and Russia to further their own interests, which involve establishing a separate political zone for the Kurdish people.

Speaking in a parliamentary session on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş confirmed Russia’s deployment of a small contingent force in Qamishli. But he played down the nature of the development, saying that a small-scale Russian military presence near the Turkish border is not a significant threat to NATO-member Turkey.

Russia’s foray into Syria’s prolonged war created a new conundrum both for Turkey and the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

When a Russian bomber jet violated Turkish airspace after two previous incursions, it prompted Turkish air forces to shoot it down. Subsequently a major dispute broke out between the two nations, triggering a series of sanctions imposed by Moscow on Turkish trade goods.

Following the jet crisis Russia deployed cutting-edge S-400 air defense systems to Syria. This was a move meant to keep Turkish air forces out of Syrian airspace, and one which practically ruled out any Turkish contribution to Western coalition air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. To avoid another incident, the US urged Turkey to suspend all its flights over Syria.

On Thursday, the US-led coalition carried out new air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. On the same day, according to Turkish military sources, Russian jets pounded Turkmen positions in western Syria and rural Aleppo, in an intensifying campaign to uproot Western-backed moderate Syrian rebel groups, including Turkmen forces, to the dismay and fury of Turkey and the West.

Russia’s selective targeting of moderate groups has complicated the fight against ISIL, leading to renewed accusations from the West and Turkey, who say Moscow intends to destroy non-ISIL opposition groups rather than fighting the extremist ISIL militants.

Moscow denies charges of watering down its fight against ISIL.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused Turkey of sending militants to Syria to join terrorist groups such as the “al-Nusra Front.” She went on to claim that the recent Turkish efforts to build a wall are not intended to boost border security, but rather serve as shelter for terrorists and position from which terrorists can cross the border.

Turkey and Russia frequently engage in tit-for-tat accusations and recriminations over each other’s stance in the Syrian conflict, exacerbating the state of discord among them.


Turkish jets strike Kurdish positions in Iraq amid rising tension between Ankara & Baghdad

December 10, 2015

Turkish jets strike Kurdish positions in Iraq amid rising tension between Ankara & Baghdad

Published time: 9 Dec, 2015 18:35 Edited time: 9 Dec, 2015 20:04

Source: Turkish jets strike Kurdish positions in Iraq amid rising tension between Ankara & Baghdad — RT News

© Umit Bektas
Ankara carried out airstrikes targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) forces in northern Iraq, the Turkish army said on Wednesday. The action comes in the wake of rising tensions between Ankara and Baghdad over the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq.

Ten F-16 fighter jets launched an attack between 10pm and 10:50pm on Tuesday, targeting PKK positions in the Kandil, Hakurk, Zap and Avasin-Baysan regions in northern Iraq, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement. It added that the targets were “destroyed in an aerial campaign.”

Tensions have been rising between Ankara and Baghdad after Turkey deployed hundreds of troops equipped with tanks and artillery to Iraq’s northern Nineveh Governorate last Thursday, saying they will train forces battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Baghdad said it had not asked for the help of Turkish forces, and demanded their withdrawal after it said Turkey had “illegally” sent the troops into Iraq. Describing the move as violation of sovereignty, the Iraqi government also asked NATO to intervene.

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© Cem Ozdel

Meanwhile, Shiite paramilitary groups have threatened to use force against Turkey unless it pulls its forces out of Iraq. Likening the Turkish incursion to the occupation of Iraq by IS militants, Badr Brigade spokesman Karim al-Nuri said “all options” were available.

We have the right to respond and we do not exclude any type of response until the Turks have learned their lesson,” Nuri said on Wednesday. “Do they have a dream of restoring Ottoman greatness? This is a great delusion and they will pay dearly because of Turkish arrogance.”

Also on Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a motion condemning the Turkish intervention, supporting the government in taking whatever measures it viewed as appropriate.

Russia raised the issue at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, expressing hope that Ankara will avoid escalating the situation in the region with any further reckless actions. Following the meeting, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said that Moscow expects Ankara to “settle the situation in Iraq in a way that would satisfy the Iraqi government.”

“Now the situation is within the focus of the attention of the Security Council, so we hope it will help resolve [it] to the satisfaction of the Iraqi government, whose sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence will be respected,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed Ankara’s actions while speaking to Italian media on Wednesday.

Lavrov proposed a thorough examination of how Turkey performs goals set by the coalition in Syria. “We need to examine how a member of the US-led coalition – the Republic of Turkey – performs goals set by the coalition,” the minister said. “Why is it not bombing terrorists as such, but the Kurds instead?”

READ MORE:West’s reaction to Turkish invasion – an exercise in hypocrisy

On Wednesday, Ankara argued that Turkish soldiers were sent to northern Iraq after a threat from IS to Turkish military trainers in the area. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the deployment was an act of solidarity, not aggression.

The [military] trainers in the Bashiqa camp were threatened by Daesh (Islamic State) because it is 15-20 kilometers from Mosul and they have only light arms,” he told media in Istanbul. “So when these threats increased… we sent some troops to protect the camp, not as an act of aggression but as an act of solidarity.