Turkey Descends Into Civil War as Pro-Kurdish Opposition Leader Arrives in Moscow


December 22, 2015

Free Press (Svobodnaya Pressa)

Андрей ИвановBy Andre Ivanov

Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus for Fort Russ

Russia Lays a Mine Under Erdogan

Moscow intends to normalize relations with the Kurds and Turkish opposition

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov may meet with the leader of the Pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democracy party of Turkey, Selahattin Demirtash, informed RIA Novosti with reference to its sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry. It is known that Demirtash arrives in Moscow on Tuesday, he had earlier expressed the desire to meet with Lavrov.

Лидер прокурдской оппозиционной Партии демократии народов Турции Селахаттин Демирташ
Selahattin Demirtash

The People’s Democracy party is a serious political force in Turkey. According to the results of the last parliamentary elections, it received 13% of votes and formed its own faction, along with three other major political forces of the country. The main difference of the party of Demirtash from the others in that it openly supports the Kurds and opposes President Erdogan.

It is important to note that the planned meeting between Lavrov and Demirtash will take place amid a sharp deterioration in Turkey’s domestic situation. In the southeastern provinces predominantly populated by Kurds, there is currently fighting between the Kurdish militia and the Turkish army. Data on casualties from both sides varies, but we are talking about dozens of dead and wounded. On Sunday there were street battles in Istanbul between police and thousands of protesters demanding to stop the military operation. We can safely say that the internal political situation in Turkey is heating up, and not in favor of Erdogan.

Moscow today actually has all the cards. Dialog with the current political leadership of Turkey is impossible. Ankara still did not apologize for the downed Su-24 and is only trying to intimidate Moscow. The recent statement of the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Chavushoglu that in case of a conflict Russia will be taken in seven days, cannot be classified as friendly.

Meanwhile Russia consistently emphasizes that it considers the Turks a friendly nation. Indeed, Erdogan and his party are not the whole country. Say, the USA actively uses internal contradictions in other countries for regime change. Maybe the time has come for Russia to act in a similar vein?

The head of the Russian Society of Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab countries, Vyacheslav Matuzov, however, believes that Moscow is not yet ready to actively impact the domestic political situation in Turkey:

— The attitude towards the Kurdish liberation movement in Russia has always been positive. This is a normal situation, when our diplomats meet with their representatives. In my opinion, Russia is actively involved in the formation of opposition groups in Syria. The Kurds of Turkey are connected to the Kurds in Syria. Our country is just establishing working contacts with the Kurds, and this is positive. At a conference in Riyadh, the Kurds were ignored under pressure from Turkey, as Russia seeks to restore their role in the Syrian and Iraqi settlement. The U.S., for example, sent 50 special ops troops to the areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds, Americans have long taken into account the Kurdish factor.

“SP”: — Now we are talking about Turkish Kurds. Maybe we should try to support Erdogan’s opposition?

— The Kurdish movement of Turkey is actively engaged in Syria. The Turkish Kurdish Workers party (PKK) effectively controls Syria’s Northern areas. We have the right to maintain contact with the Kurds. Say, Obama met with the Russian opposition in Moscow.

I see a dialogue not as a jab against the Turkish authorities, but as support for Syrian opposition. Russian foreign policy is distinguished for a serious approach to solving international and regional problems, we won’t waste our time on some jabs towards the Turkish government.

The Director of the Center for the Study of Middle East and Central Asia Semen Bagdasarov believes that dialogue with Turkish opposition is essential:

— People’s Democracy party is not just a pro-Kurdish party, but also left. Now they have 59 seats in parliament, it is quite a strong opposition party to Erdogan. Supporting this party, we support the aspirations of the Turkish people to improve the life of not only the Kurds, but also the Turks. In my opinion, this is absolutely right.

There is also a major opposition Republican People’s party led by Kemal Kilichdaroglu, it is also necessary to talk to him. There is another far-right Party of Nationalist Revival, that is the “Grey wolves”, but a dialogue with them is impossible.

Yes, we need to meet with the leaders of the People’s Democracy Party and the Republican People’s party. By the way, Kilichdaroglu and Demirtash come from the people of Zaza, who have always been in the opposition.

“SP”: — Is the establishment of relations of Moscow with the opposition related to the beginning of clashes with Kurds in Turkey?

— There are not just clashes in Turkey, it’s a civil war. Demirtash warned a few months ago that the country is on the verge of civil war, now it has begun. Following the statements of Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu that “the liberation of the territories from bandits has begun.” In fact, we are talking about ethnic cleansing, thousands of people are now fleeing from their towns and villages. The PKK has declared that the war has began.

And naturally, we stand against ethnic cleansing, and will refer to the UN with condemnation. By the way, the sweeps are now conducted right on the border with Syria.

“SP”: — What help can we provide to the opposition in Turkey?

— We need to meet, talk, provide all kinds of support. First of all, we must help the Syrian Kurds who are associated more with the PKK. Between the PKK and the People’s Democracy party there is a significant difference. The People’s Democracy party is in favor of a peaceful solution to the Kurd issue and the PKK is open to the use of force if necessary. In any case, Turkey should brace itself.

“SP”: — Can Russia help the opposition to unseat Erdogan?

– Erdogan cannot be easily unseated, this is not a serious thought. He, apparently, is there for a long haul, although anything can happen. But we can still support the PKK, it will be a serious headache for Erdogan, Davutoglu and all their click.

— Demirtash is a very promising politician, – says a leading researcher of the Center for Asian and African Studies of the Higher School of Economics, Alexey Obraztsov. – He was a successful lawyer, but at some point decided to go first into the human rights movement and then into politics. Of course, he created a miracle. Until recently it was impossible to imagine that a party that did not hide it was a wing of the PKK would make it into the parliament. The first time it was elected into the parliament with fantastic numbers. On second elections, they still received mandates, despite enormous pressure. Demirtash can expect a bright political future if he, of course, will be able to survive in the current situation.

Russia doesn’t aim to gather opposition forces. They have gathered themselves long ago and established ties. If we set aside the far-right Party of Nationalist Revival, the People’s Democracy party and the Republican People’s party certainly are in touch.

In fact, why shouldn’t Lavrov meet with Demirtash. Turkey positions itself as a European state. And it is normal, when the leaders of parliamentary parties meet with representatives of diplomatic agencies of other countries.

“SP”: — But the meeting will be held amid a troubled background.

— The Kurdish areas of Turkey have always been special, the situation has always been difficult there. At one time, Erdogan’s government has invested heavily into the adaptation of the Kurdish areas. Indeed, the imbalance between the regions was monstrous. For example, in Istanbul 15 years ago minimum wage was $400, and in the Kurdish areas not the minimum but the average salary was $150. A lot of money was invested in the regions. A ceasefire was signed with the PKK. Overall, if not pacification, but a long truce was established. But Erdogan now destroyed it.

“SP”: — How can we use the current situation?

— For now, as our president said, the political dialogue with the Turkish leadership is impossible. And thus practical results from the proposed meeting of Demirtash with Lavrov are possible. Turkey should be occupied with internal problems, of which there are many. If these problems intensify, then the Turkish government will have something to deal with besides geopolitical games. By the way, now we see the reluctance of Erdogan to deal with internal problems instead of external.

The head of the International Union of Kurdish Public Associations Merab Shamoev says that the Kurds around the world today place high hopes on Russia:

– Now Russia launched an air operation in Syria, and the situation in this country has changed. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Despite the attempts to isolate Russia, it remains a great power. The Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran look up to Russia with great hope. Moreover, the Kurds do not stress the issue of secession, they advocate for autonomy, federal or confederate structure of the states, that is, in the framework of international law.

The Kurds need Russia and always talked about it. Demirtash comes to Moscow, and this speaks volumes. Europe, America is far and Russia is close. The Kurds and Russia’s have many common interests. It is a struggle against terrorism and the interest in maintaining the principles of international law.

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