Turkey has called an extraordinary meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels tomorrow to discuss military operations against the self-proclaimed Islamic State group and Kurdish separatists.
Turkey has previously been criticised for being a reluctant partner in the fight against I-S but to that appears to have changed.
However, Turkey’s simultaneous crackdown on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, could further complicate the fight.
Michael Kenny reports.
As Turkey has stepped up its efforts in the fight against I-S – it has also renewed attacks on its long-time enemy, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or the P-K-K, in northern Iraq.
An attack in the Kurdish majority Turkish town of Suruc, which killed 32 people, appears to have been a catalyst.
Turkey blamed I-S for the attack.
But two days later, the P-K-K killed two Turkish policemen, claiming it was retaliation for alleged Turkish government collaboration with I-S.
Turkey responded with a series of airstrikes against both I-S positions in Syria, and the P-K-K in northern Iraq.
Renewed tension between Turkey and the PKK could complicate the international coalition’s fight against IS.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC, he’s concerned about it.
“We are helping them, supporting them in their efforts to fight terrorism, but of course, self-defence has to be proportionate.”
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU, the US, and Australia.
But the Syrian branch of the PKK, the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, has proven to be an effective ally in the fight against I-S in Syria.
White House spokesman Ben Rhodes has defended Turkey’s right to defend itself, but called for a de-escalation of violence between Turkey and the P-K-K.
“We are certainly mindful of the fact that we encourage our different partners in this fight to work together and we obviously have a good working relationship with the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq and those lines of communication are open. At the same time, the U.S. of course, recognises the PKK specifically as a terrorist organisation. So again, Turkey has a right to take action related to terrorist targets.”
Critics in Turkey accuse President Tayyip Erdogan of taking up the campaign against Islamic State as political cover to clamp down on the Kurds, after failing to win an outright majority at elections last month.
Former E-U Ambassador to Turkey, Marc Pierini has told the ABC, it’s been easy for the President to draw parallels between the PKK and IS.
“In our eyes, in the Western world – there is no real relationship between fighting PKK terrorism or ISIS terrorism. But of course, seen from Turkey, they’ve been fighting PKK for decades now and at the cost of many many thousands of lives, and probably by equating the two threats, the two terrorist organisations, it made it easier to justify what is basically a U-turn on ISIS.”
Peace rallies have been held across Turkey amid fears the country could slide back toward major conflict with the Kurds, after a two-year ceasefire.
At least 40-thousand people have been killed in decades of fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military.
This protestor is one who fears an end to the ceasefire.
“The government is trying to do, starting a war between Turkish people and Kurdish people again. But we don’t want to have a war again. This country has suffered enough all this war and we won’t let it.”.