‘Turkey’s crackdown on Kurds is a return to autocracy’ - ex-UN Assistant Sec-Gen

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The growing international outcry is sending Ankara a clear message to “reconsider” its military quest against the Kurds. It is causing immense civilian suffering and undermines regional security, former UN Assistant Secretary-General Hans Christof von Sponeck told RT.

RT: How do you assess the humanitarian situation in the Turkish southeast, where Ankara is carrying out an-anti terror operation against Kurdish militants?

Hans-Christof von Sponeck: I would say that the Turkish resumption of attacks against Kurdish installations, not just PKK [the Kurdish Workers’ Party], but also in urban areas like Diyarbakir, is of course an immense setback for the overall security situation in Turkey, but also in the wider Middle East.

The Turkish government of President Erdogan decided that it was worth the risk to pursue a double agenda. On the one hand, he insists that he must be an ally in the fight against ISIS [Islamic State or IS]. On the other hand, he has parallel operations against not just the Kurds in Turkey, but certainly also the Kurds along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Let’s not forget also the Kurds in northern Iraq. Mr. [Masoud] Barzani, the leader of the KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party], is worried that the sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan is endangered by the intervention of Turkish forces. So here we see after some progress a few years ago in the negotiations between the PKK and Ankara that we are back to a very hostile unfriendly environment that is a further contribution to the destabilization of the region.

RT: After numerous reports about civilian casualties in the town of Cizre, RT decided to go there and see everything with our own eyes. How does the international community react to that?

Former UN Assistant Secretary-General Hans-Christof von Sponeck

HS: As I’ve said, anyone who follows developments in southeastern Turkey is extremely worried. There is the parliament in Ankara, there is the HDP (Peoples' Democratic Party), which includes quite a number of Kurdish parliamentarians – that is where the dialogue should take place, not in the urban areas of southeastern Turkey involving people that have absolutely nothing to do with the PKK.

RT: Turkey denies targeting civilians, but the reports from the ground tell a different story. Will there be any pressure on Ankara regarding its crackdown on the Kurdish region?

HS: If nothing else, it will be noticed in Brussels, it will be noticed in New York and it will be an immense setback for any quest that Mr. Erdogan may have in approaching the European Union for membership in the [bloc]. So it is noticed. The governments…[and] the public in Europe, people with whom I interact every day express their concern over the deterioration in the democracy situation in Turkey. We’re going back to a very autocratic situation and that is of service to no one – neither to Europe that wants to look with friendly eyes at Turkey, nor to the people in Turkey who want anything but the kind of carnage that we saw in Ankara, Hatay, and Istanbul…The message to Erdogan is quite clear: he should reconsider the kind of resumption of hostility, interaction, military operations which are not directed only against the PKK but also involve innocent…civilians.  

…Before the resumption of hostilities between Kurds and Ankara, the question of the membership of Turkey in the EU was absolutely not uniformly clear. There were many who even under more stable conditions were opposed to Turkey becoming a member of the EU. Now, with this kind of development, and the double standard with which the Erdogan government is participating in conflict resolution in Syria, Iraq, and southeastern Turkey – I think the chances that there will be a majority decision to welcome Turkey into the EU – from my point of view – are certainly quite unlikely to occur.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.