Turkish govt rejected Kurdish offer of peace talks, opposition says

© Sertac Kayar
The leader of a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey says that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) wanted to agree to a return to talks with the Turkish government a few months ago, only for Ankara to reject the proposal.

The claims were made by Selahattin Demirtas, the Kurdish leader of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) on Wednesday.

"A few months ago, we were in contact with Qandil (PKK) in an effort to return to the negotiating table. The government knew that we were working for this but the government rejected it," Demirtas said, as cited by Reuters.

A 2 1/2-year ceasefire between the PKK and Ankara was shattered in July. Kurdish militants are fighting for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy for Kurds – demands which Ankara rejects. 

Since July, almost 400 soldiers and police and several thousand militants have been killed in the conflict which has largely take part in the southeast of Turkey, according to government figures. Opposition parties say between 500 and 1,000 civilians have also been killed in the fighting. 

Ankara’s anti-terrorist operations have not only been based in the south east of Turkey, but have also spilled over into Iraq and Syria. On Wednesday, Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in northern Iraq, according to CNN Turk. 

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said members of the PKK should either surrender or be “neutralized,” stressing that the time for peace talks is over. 

In a speech broadcast live by the state television channel TRT, Erdogan said that counter-terror operations against PKK fighters will continue until the last militant is neutralized, expressing confidence that the mission would be accomplished. The president went on to state that Ankara had tried to disarm PKK fighters, but those efforts had not been successful. 

Human rights organizations have been deeply critical of the crackdown introduced by the Turkish state. Andrew Gardner, an expert on Turkey with Amnesty International, admitted in an interview with RT that the situation in southeastern Turkey was deteriorating. He stressed that the curfews imposed in the areas inhabited by Kurds are an “unacceptable limitation of rights of the people.” 

Gardner also confirmed that there is clear evidence that “young children, elderly people, people who clearly were not fighters,” were killed during the crackdown. 

RT has also launched a petition urging the UN to investigate claims of alleged mass killing of Kurdish civilians. Reports from the battlefield include stories of civilians being slaughtered and burned alive.