Mr. Erdogan’s charge against Washington was accompanied by a diplomatic protest with the summons of the American ambassador to Ankara to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, unhappy with Washington’s reaction to the death of Turkish nationals. “The statements of the United States are deplorable. You say you do not support the terrorists but you are indeed on their side, ”Erdogan said during a speech.
Turkey accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Sunday of having executed 13 of its nationals, most of them members of the security forces, whom it had held captive in northern Iraq for several years. According to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Turkish soldiers discovered 13 lifeless bodies in a cave in the Gara region of northern Iraq, where Ankara has been carrying out an operation since Wednesday against the PKK, a qualified group. of “terrorist” by Ankara and its Western allies.
Also read the opinion of our columnist:
The PKK refutes
The PKK acknowledged the deaths of a group of prisoners, but refuted Ankara’s version, claiming they were killed in Turkish airstrikes.
The US State Department said Sunday to “deplore” the deaths. “If the information on the deaths of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, an organization classified as terrorist, is confirmed, we condemn these actions in the strongest terms,” he added.
Turkish pro-government media denounced the language used in the US statement, and a foreign ministry source said the use of the words “if confirmed” cast doubt on the veracity of Ankara’s version. “The American Ambassador (David) Satterfield was summoned to the ministry today and our reaction to the American communiqué was notified to him in the strongest terms,” Turkish diplomacy said.
In an apparent attempt to contain Ankara’s outbursts of anger, US foreign minister Antony Blinken blamed the PKK for the deaths of the thirteen Turks, in a telephone interview Monday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“The Secretary of State expressed his condolences for the death of Turkish hostages in northern Iraq and affirmed that the PKK terrorists bear the responsibility”, assured the spokesman for American diplomacy, Ned Price, in a statement.
According to Ankara, US support for the YPG and other areas of contention between Ankara and Washington, such as Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missiles, were on the menu of this telephone interview, the first between the two ministers.
During this exchange, Mr. Cavusoglu told his interlocutor of Ankara’s “‘uneasiness’ at the American statements in the current period,” added the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Ankara’s rejection of the initial US condemnation reflects its distrust of Washington regarding its policy towards Kurdish rebels.
While Washington considers the PKK a terrorist organization, it nonetheless supports Kurdish militias linked to it in Syria as part of the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
This support for the Syrian Kurdish militias of the YPG, which began under the administration of Barack Obama, has for several years been at the heart of the tensions that plague Turkish-American relations. The losses announced on Sunday increased the pressure on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, the HDP, which the Turkish authorities present as the political showcase of the PKK.
The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Monday that the security forces had arrested 718 people, including HDP officials, suspected of links with the PKK, during operations which continue in 40 cities across the country.
The HDP expressed its “deep sadness” on Sunday after the death of Turkish nationals in Iraq, calling on the PKK to release the remaining prisoners.
Turkey regularly carries out attacks in the mountainous areas of northern Iraq against the rear bases of the PKK, which since 1984 has been delivering bloody guerrillas on Turkish soil with a death toll of over 40,000.