Bombings in Turkey Heighten Security Concerns | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.05.2007
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Bombings in Turkey Heighten Security Concerns

Turkey has responded to recent bombings by suspected Kurdish rebels with tough talk and arrests. The security situation could further complicate Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Recent bombings have Turkey concerned about Kurdish rebels

Recent bombings have Turkey concerned about Kurdish rebels

Six Turkish soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb Thursday in southeast Turkey near the border with Iraq. The attack on the military vehicle came two days after a suicide bomber killed a half dozen people in downtown Ankara.

Turkish political leaders have blamed Kurdish rebels affiliated with the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK.) Twenty-six people, most of them students, have been arrested for alleged involvement in the attacks, according to media reports on Friday.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the United States. The PKK has denied any involvement in the recent attacks, but Turkish officials said the method of the bomb attack and the type of explosives were similar to past PKK attacks.

Mending ties to EU

Frankreich, Wahlsieger Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy says Turkey doesn't belong in the EU

The violence comes at a bad time for Turkey. The new French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it clear he continues to oppose Turkey's bid to join the EU. Instead, he has proposed a Mediterranean union between Turkey and its neighbors.

"I don't see how you can be a candidate with one opinion and a president with another," he said during a press conference in Brussels this week. "I don't think that Turkey has a place in the Union."

France has said it would consider vetoing Turkey's entry into the EU. Turkey began negotiations in 2005.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reportedly phoned Sarkozy on Thursday, in an apparent conciliatory gesture, according to Reuters.

In his first call to Sarkozy since his election, sources in Erdogan's office quoted the prime minister as congratulating the French president on his victory in the polls and told him that the two needed to work directly with each other, according to Reuters.

"We must not communicate via media statements," Erdogan was quoted as telling Sarkozy. "(We must) work together with direct talks."

Sarkozy reportedly offered his condolences for a bomb attack in Ankara on Tuesday and said he wanted to work together to overcome their common problems, according to Reuters.

Erdogan also noted France and Turkey cooperate on economic, political and military issues and that Turkey is already a NATO member.

Too soon to say if Turkey belongs in EU

Symbolfoto - EU-Beitrittsverhandlungen mit der Türkei

Talks continue about Turkey's place in the EU

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the European Commission plans to continue accession negotiations with Turkey and said it was too soon to judge whether Turkey belonged in the 27-member bloc.

"We have a sound negotiating mandate with Turkey and the Commission's view is that we will continue the accession negotiations with Turkey because it is in the interests of both the European Union and Turkey," he said at a news briefing.

"If we succeed, if Turkey succeeds, Turkey can become an even more important bridge of civilizations than it is today," Rehn said. "And the time to judge whether Turkey has been able to meet the conditions of EU accession is in the latter stages of the accession process."

Turkey has general elections scheduled for July 22 to decide a political conflict between the Islamic-leaning government and the military-backed secular establishment.

Military needs to show restraint


Turkish special forces fire tear gas at Kurdish demonstrators

The recent bombings further complicate Turkey's domestic and foreign politics. The PKK is thought to have launched the attacks from hideouts in northern Iraq.

Turkish army chief Yasar Buyukanit last month called for a military operation into Iraq to quash PKK guerrillas.

The United States and Iraqi Kurdish leaders oppose the idea. A Kurdish Iraqi official recently warned that talk of such a move would signal a "dangerous escalation" of the situation. The US has also urged Turkey to show restraint, fearing a cross-border operation could disrupt efforts to stabilize war-torn Iraq.

Attacks blamed on rebels continued Friday when a bomb derailed seven cars of a freight train in southeast Turkey. No injuries were reported.

Police arrested 26 people, most of them university students belonging to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), media reported on Friday. Eight of the arrested are women who were preparing attacks, local authorities were quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying.

The PKK has fought for an ethnic homeland since 1984, and Ankara blames it for 30,000 deaths.

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