Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has called on France to “immediately” clarify the killing of three Kurdish activists shot dead in Paris, asking French President Francois Hollande to explain why he had held meetings with one of those killed.
Hollande had said the murder of Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez was “terrible”, adding that he knew one of the Kurdish women and that she “regularly met us,” without saying which one.
Cansiz was a co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is branded a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the US and European Union.
“France must immediately clarify this incident,” Erdogan said in televised remarks on Saturday.
“Also, the French head of state must explain immediately to the French, Turkish and world public why … he is in communication with these terrorists,” he added.
The three were found dead on Thursday at the Kurdistan Information Centre in the French capital’s 10th district, after last being seen alive at the centre at midday on Wednesday.
“How can he [Hollande] regularly meet with these people who are members of a group listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and who are wanted under red bulletin (issued by Interpol)?” Erdogan asked. “What sort of a policy is it?”
The Turkish leader repeatedly accused some European member states, including France and Germany, of obstructing Ankara’s fight against the separatist PKK, saying that they were letting PKK members freely circulate on their soil.
France held ‘responsible’
About 15,000 Kurds from all over Europe vowed revenge for the attacks as they rallied on Saturday in Paris over the killing of three women.
The march, which began at the city’s Gare de l’Est railway station, was emotionally charged, with demonstrators saying France would be an accomplice in the brazen murders if it did not identify and punish the killers.
“The French state bears a responsibility. If the perpetrators of these crimes are not found, France will be indisputably considered as an accomplice,” said a leaflet published and distributed by France’s main Kurdish association, Feyka.
The PKK warned that it would hold France responsible if the killers were not quickly found.
Ankara said the slayings bore the hallmarks of an internal feud, noting that the victims appeared to have given the killer or killers access to the centre.
Erdogan insisted on Saturday that an internal feud in the PKK, which demands autonomy from the Turkish government in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey, was most likely behind the slayings.
“For God’s sake, I’m asking. Is this terrorist organisation innocent? Hasn’t it carried out such executions thus far?” he said
Local media reported on Saturday that Turkey’s spy agency has launched an investigation into the execution-style killings.
“The relevant unit of the organisation is investigating the incidents. We have to wait a couple of days to get a clearer picture,” a source from the Turkish secret service was quoted as saying by the English-language Hurriyet Daily News.
The Turkish premier upheld his earlier suggestion that the slayings could be aimed at derailing peace talks between Ankara and the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
The killings came days after Turkish media reported that Turkey and the PKK leadership had agreed a roadmap to end the three-decade old Kurdish conflict that has claimed more than 45,000 lives.
The deal was reportedly reached during a new round of talks between Ankara and Ocalan, which the government acknowledges have been taking place with the aim of disarming the rebels.