Opinion: Erdogan on the warpath | Opinion | DW | 27.07.2015
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Opinion

Opinion: Erdogan on the warpath

Turkey is bombarding "IS" strongholds - but also those of the Kurdish PKK. That fact is endangering the peace process between Ankara and the Kurds, says Turkey correspondent Reinhard Baumgarten.

The radicals are gaining the upper hand and the intra-Turkish peace process is hanging by a thread. Now everyone is waiting for a statement from Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is sitting in the prison of Imrali. Perhaps he has - or would like to have - already made a statement. Perhaps his words are not allowed to leave the island in the Sea of Marmara.

Since yesterday, Ankara and the PKK once again find themselves in a de facto war. In a statement released on the Internet, the military arm of the PKK announced an end to the ceasefire which both parties signed in 2013. One word from Ocalan could change that back. Is that what he wants? Is it what Ankara wants?

Erdogan's new path?

And what does President Recep Tayyip Erdogan want? The 61-year-old has sought reconciliation with Turkish Kurds like no other leader before him.

Reinhard Baumgarten

Turkey correspondent Reinhard Baumgarten

He deserves credit for that. But with his air assaults on PKK strongholds he is embarking on a new path. It isn't that he has suddenly changed his convictions, but rather that he has recognized that the dynamics in the region have developed in a way that he did not expect.

Now he is attempting to correct that with bombs and rockets. Those are now hitting the militant group "Islamic State" ("IS"), which Ankara has at least been tolerating, if not actively supporting, for years. And they are hitting the PKK as well. Syrian Kurds managed to turn back "IS" with the help of the PKK at places like Kobane and Tel Abyad, symbols of Kurdish resistance - and of Ankara's disapproval of Kurdish successes.

Military attacks during government formation

Another thing that fundamentally annoys Erdogan: The strong performance of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), parallel to the loss of an absolute majority for his own Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliamentary elections on June 7 of this year. Today, there is still no new government in Turkey. Are Erdogan and his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu betting on new elections in which a wave of patriotic fervor set off by an instrumentalized fear of terror will wash the HDP out of parliament? The theory cannot be discounted.

If that were the case, the peace process would indeed be over, as many Kurds would see themselves robbed of all political hope. Oh, but how much stability and economic development a compromise with the Kurds could bring to Turkey! Yet, Erdogan alone is not to be criticized. Radical elements within the PKK have been using murder and military attacks as instruments of escalation designed to sabotage a possible peace agreement. If the PKK adds its own terror to that expected from "IS" fanatics, then Turkey is in for turbulent times.

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