Ankara changing strategy vis-à-vis the Islamic state and the Kurds at NATO meeting
Ankara (AsiaNews) – NATO is set to convene tomorrow after Turkey called for an “emergency meeting,” following a violent escalation pitting for the first time Turkish forces against the Islamic state (IS) group as well as its old nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The latter is considered a 'terrorist organisation fighting for a Kurdish state independent from Turkey.
A suicide attack, ostensibly by IS, against Kurdish protesters in Suruc, which killed 32 young people on 20 July, triggered the escalation.
Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s government responded by launching several air raids against IS positions in Syria but also against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
At the same time, Turkish police unleashed a wave of arrests of suspected IS or PKK militants in dozens of Turkish cities, with up to 600 people taken into custody.
Until recently, Turkey had been seen as indirectly backing the Islamic State group by allowing a constant flow of weapons and militants into Syria and the export of oil from the IS stronghold of Raqqa.
For some analysts, Turkey appears to be switching strategic gear. However, for others, by targeting the Kurds, Ankara is holding to its strategy against the possible emergence of a Kurdish state within its boundaries. Some 15 million Kurds live mostly in south-eastern Turkey.
The NATO meeting is expected to boost relations with countries already fighting IS and ensure that no Kurdish autonomous areas emerges in Syria and Iraq. This is why Turkish planes hit PKK positions north of Dohuk and Arbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Meanwhile, in Diyarbakir, in Turkey’s Kurdish regions, a car bomb hit a military vehicle and Kurdish militants later opened fire and killed two Turkish soldiers.
In Istanbul, Kurds in Istanbul held a peace march in the city’s Gazi district. Demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, whilst police responded with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas (pictured). At least one activist and a police officer have been killed.