Moscow urges Ankara to stop violence against Kurds, return to negotiations

© Sertac Kayar
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has called on Ankara to cease violence in Turkey’s south-eastern regions and reinvigorate dialogue with Kurds to find a political solution to the crisis.

Turkey's military crackdown on Kurds in anti-PKK op LIVE UPDATES

Despite Turkish authorities announcing the end of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in the mainly-Kurdish south-eastern regions, “the level of violence, unfortunately, isn’t decreasing,” Maria Zakharova, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Thursday at a briefing in Moscow.

The spokeswoman cited human rights watchdogs and media outlets reporting “deaths among civilians as a result of airstrikes by the Turkish Air Force and large-scale human rights violations in the course of the military operation.”

“Once again we call upon Ankara to create the conditions to end violence and consider a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. We’re confident that it can only be solved in the political plain,” Zakharova said. 

Around 90,000 civilians in eastern Hakkari and Mardin Provinces were forced to abandon their homes and flee due to heavy fighting between the Turkish forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Hurriyet newspaper reported citing official figures.

The government declared a 24-hour curfew in Yüksekova and several towns in the area as it’s attempting to eliminate a group of around 400 PKK fighters.

The military said on Wednesday that 28 Kurdish militiamen were killed in the first three days of the operation.

The Turkish crackdown on the Kurdish areas began in July 2015, ending a ceasefire agreement between the sides that had held for two years. Months of heavy fighting saw around 300 members of the Turkish security forces and around 1,000 Kurdish fighters dead.

The conflict also endangered around 200,000 people as a strict Turkish curfew denied people access to water, electricity and medical assistance, with Ankara’s action condemned by leading international human rights groups.

At least 224 civilians (42 children, 31 women, 30 people over the age 60) lost their lives in the south-east during the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation, Turkish Human Rights Foundation said.

In February reports emerged blaming the Turkish troops of slaughtering civilians trapped in basements in the Kurdish town of Cizre, with around 150 people allegedly being burnt to death.

RT sent a crew to the site of the alleged massacre, documenting destroyed buildings, with blood stains on the debris and shell casings lying around as well as collecting accounts from the witnesses.

The materials gathered by the journalists were provided to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other international organizations, which, however, failed to come up with any substantive comments on the Cizre events.

After that, RT launched a petition, urging UN Human Rights council to investigate alleged mass killing of Kurds in Turkey.

RT’s petition on Change.org: We urge UNHRC to investigate alleged mass killing of Kurds in Turkey

During her briefing, Zakharova said that the Foreign Ministry has requested and received the data gathered by RT in Cizre from the broadcaster.

“This issue was brought to the attention of the minister [Sergey Lavrov]. Our experts will analyze the existing materials and then we’ll be able to share our evaluations,” the spokeswoman said.