Ankara (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to take concrete actions against the Islamic state (IS) group stems from a desire to prevent the Kurds from seeking autonomy or even their own state in the section of Syria they control.
Until recently in fact, Ankara had closed both eyes to the flow of men and materiel through its territory towards IS-held areas. Yesterday, Erdogan launched an attack against the Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, HDP), a Kurdish-based party whose success at the polls in June prevented the president’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) from winning an absolute majority.
The president even claimed that some HDP lawmakers had links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK) and has called for their parliamentary immunity to be lifted. Such actions have led to speculation that the president might be tempted to go for early elections.
In view of the situation, the Turkish leader said that the peace process with the PKK, which had begun in 2012, was “impossible” because of Kurdish attacks against the Turkish military. For this reason, Turkish airplanes struck PKK bases in Kurdish areas of Turkey and northern Iraq.
In his response, HDP President Selahattin Demirtas said that Turkey’s anti-IS operations are a ruse to pursue its war against Kurdish desire for autonomy.
Whatever the reason, yesterday Turkey received NATO backing. After an emergency meeting in Brussels, the Alliance expressed "strong solidarity” and firm support for Ankara.
Nonetheless, although all 28 alliance members recognised Turkey’s right to defend itself, some privately called for a proportional response against the PKK in order to save the peace process.
On the margins of the NATO meeting, Turkey and the United States confirmed their intention of creating a 90-km long "IS-free zone" inside Syria along the Turkish border.
This would allow Syrian refugees to go back and prevent the creation of the Kurdish region within Syria, a prospect Erdogan dreads.
For Washington, which for months had tried to get Ankara to commit against IS, this is the price to pay for the right to use the Incirlik airbase against the Jihadi group.