U.S. calls on PKK to return to political process with Turkey

U.S. calls on PKK to return to political process with Turkey
6 years ago

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department spokesman has called on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to “cease their attacks, [and] to return to a political process” with the Turkish state.

The call comes amid growing concerns in the West that the escalation of clashes between the Turkish military and the guerilla group may complicate the U.S.-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State (IS) as the Turkish Air Forces continued its air strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

To avoid that, the U.S. last week urged Turkey for a proportionate response to the PKK while also calling on the group to cease their attacks in Turkish territory.

Speaking at a daily press briefing on Monday, U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. calls on the PKK to return to its political process with Turkey.

Expressing understanding for Turkey's right to self-defense in the face of the PKK targeting Turkish security members, Kirby also called for moderation.

The PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU and Turkey, launched its fight in 1984 for greater autonomy. Once pressing for an independent Kurdistan, the group has scaled back its goals and is seeking greater rights.

After two years of a fragile peace process and truce, the group has revived its armed attacks against the Turkish state.

Kirby dismissed charges of Turkey possibly disrupting the fight against IS in Syria through targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the main U.S. ally on the ground.

Last week Mark Toner, State Department deputy spokesperson, said US officials had made clear to their Turkish counterparts that Ankara would not extend its military campaign against the YPG in Syria. The YPG is a PKK's affiliate in Syria and has emerged as a key partner for Washington in the fight against ISIL.

Ankara is alarmed by Kurdish gains in northern Syria as the YPG drove off IS from towns, one after another.

After weathering a months-long siege by IS in Kobane, the group, backed by U.S. air support, successfully pushed back the radical militants and liberated the town in a battle that marked the first major defeat for ISIL.

In a further blow to the extremists, the YPG captured the northern town of Tel Abyad near the Turkish border, cutting a significant supply line for IS.

Facing accusations of abetting a Kurdish bid for a separate, independent political zone in the north, the U.S. has taken pains to dismiss such charges.

On Monday, Kirby said the U.S. and other members of the coalition against IS do not support any initiative or move that could change the territorial integrity of Syria.

"There's no support from the coalition to do anything to change the territorial integrity of Syria," he said when asked what the U.S. thinks about the Kurdish aspiration for an independent nation-state.

"We've made it clear the coalition's goal and focus is against [IS], period. It's not about changing the map, it's about going after [IS]," he said.