國際英語新聞:Spotlight: PKK jailed leader's call reinforces claims of Turkey's talks with Syrian Kurdis

Source: Xinhuanet    2019-05-19  我要投稿   論壇   Favorite  

ISTANBUL, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Amid an unexpected call by the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on the Kurdish militia in Syria to heed Turkish concerns, many feel Ankara may be in talks with the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters.

The denial of talks by Turkish officials is not convincing given the past government record in this respect, Cahit Armagan Dilek, director of the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute, told Xinhua.

Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader, said in a letter made public by his lawyers early this month that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should pay heed to Turkey's concerns as they work toward a democratic settlement in war-torn Syria.

"This letter indicates that the Erdogan administration has a positive attitude regarding a settlement in Syria in which the SDF is also involved," Dilek argued, noting the letter cannot have been made public without governmental approval.

Turkey sees the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, while the SDF is largely dominated by the YPG.

The YPG has carved out two self-declared autonomous cantons along the Turkish border thanks to Washington's military support during the Syrian war.

Ocalan's lawyers were allowed on May 2 to visit him in prison, the first since 2011.

The part connected with the SDF is the most critical paragraph in Ocalan's letter, stated Dilek, a former captain in the Turkish navy.

Back in mid-April, the U.S. Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers claimed that Turkey was in talks with the SDF about "legitimate issues."

Summers' remark came in response to a question about a security zone the United States had proposed to establish in YPG-held territory along the Turkish border to convince Ankara that the Kurdish militia would pose no security threat to it.

Remarks by Ocalan and Summers indicate a sort of back-door diplomacy going on between Ankara and the YPG, said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a security policy analyst.

"But that doesn't mean there is consensus," he told Xinhua.

Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, denied any talks with the SDF on May 1 when the spokesman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) asked about the content of the alleged negotiations.

Celik described the CHP spokesman's claim as slander, accusing the party of serving as a tool for U.S. propaganda.

Turkish officials denied negotiations with the PKK in the past, but it later came out that some top intelligence officials had talks with PKK representatives on the government's instructions.

"Negotiating with the SDF amounts to nothing less than recognizing it as a political actor," said Dilek.

Ankara has often threatened to carry out a cross-border operation to eliminate the YPG in northeastern Syria, but has refrained from taking action apparently because of Washington's declared support for the Kurdish militia.

In January, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed to establish a 30-km-deep safe zone on the YPG-held territory along the Turkish border, threatening at the same time to economically devastate Turkey in case it attacks the Kurdish force.

Since then, Ankara and Washington have been in talks about the safe zone which Ankara wants to put under its own control, while Washington does not appear to favor the idea.

There is no agreement on all issues yet, but progress has been achieved, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said early this month.

"It's highly unlikely the U.S. would allow the safe zone to be under Turkish control," Hasan Koni, an analyst on international relations with Istanbul Culture University, told Xinhua.

Koni referred to a U.S. media report about Syrian Christians' opposition to a Turkish-controlled safe zone.

Trump is not expected to take any steps that would risk losing the support of evangelical voters ahead of next year's presidential elections, as a big majority of the evangelical Christians voted for him in the 2016 elections.

What Turkey wants to avoid is the emergence of a YPG-controlled autonomous Kurdish area along its border, remarked Koni.

Turkey is concerned that an autonomous Kurdish area along its border may set a precedent for its own nearly 20 million Kurdish population.

The PKK has been fighting a bloody war for an autonomous if not an independent Kurdistan in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Dilek feels that negotiating with the Syrian Kurdish militia would basically mean Turkish adoption of the U.S. line and that Ankara may be hoping to get in return Washington's financial backing for its debt-stricken economy as well as the support of Kurdish voters in the re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election on June 23.

Turkey's ruling party lost the late March local elections in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the largest three cities in the country, but appealed successfully for a fresh election in Istanbul.

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