Erdogan says Kurdish peace talks impossible to continue

Turkish leader sounds warning after NATO offers support for ongoing military offensive against PKK and ISIL.

    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it is impossible to continue a peace process with Kurdish fighters and that politicians with links to "terrorist groups" should be stripped of their immunity from prosecution.

    After months of reluctance, Turkey last week started military operations on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria.

    Inside Story: Has Turkey bitten off more than it can chew?

    The operations came after a bombing last week blamed on ISIL that killed 32 mostly young Kurdish students in the Turkish town of Suruc on the border with Syria.

    Simultaneously, Turkey started conducting air strikes on Iraqi positions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

    The PKK fought the Turkish state for over 30 years until a 2013 ceasefire was declared as the two sides were engaged in talks.

    Throughout last week, PKK was stepping up its attacks as Turkey keeps on with its air strikes against the group.

    "It is not possible for us to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood," Erdogan said on Tuesday before departing for an official visit to China.

    Erdogan also said a "secure zone" in northern Syria, which Turkey and the US are in talks about establishing, would pave the way for the return of 1.7 million Syria refugees currently being sheltered in Turkey.

    The US and Turkey discussed on Monday plans for a military campaign to push ISIL out of such a zone.

    NATO's support

    Erdogan's statement came after  NATO offered political support for Turkey's military campaign at a rare meeting in Brussels, with the Turkish government saying the alliance may have a "duty" to become more involved.

    The extraordinary meeting at the NATO headquarters on Tuesday was the fifth in the organisation's 66-year history.

    'ISIL-free zone' planned for Syria's border with Turkey

    The session was requested by Turkey under Article 4 of the treaty that founded the US-led alliance, which empowers its 28 member states to seek such consultations when they consider their "territorial integrity, political independence or security" to be in jeopardy.

    "We stand in strong solidarity with our ally Turkey," Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general, told alliance ambassadors at the start of a meeting he called right and timely "to address instability on Turkey's doorstep and on NATO's border".

    In the run-up, both NATO and Turkey played down any idea that the military alliance might provide air or ground support for Turkey's dramatic change in strategy.

    Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, said Turkey got what it wanted from the NATO meeting.

    "NATO expressed solidarity and political support for both PKK and ISIL campaigns," he said.

    "Turkey has been careful in expressing that they were not targeting Kurdish fighters in Syria, who also fight against the ISIL."

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    The NATO meeting also came shortly after PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) said that Turkish tanks shelled Kurdish-held villages on Sunday night.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Ankara, Osman Sert, media adviser to Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish prime minister, said: "As long as YPG or other groups fight ISIL and the Syrian regime, we have no problem with them.

    "Turkey's borders are also NATO borders. Whenever we need support, we will appeal to the alliance."

    Turkey last week entered a long-awaited agreement which allows the US to launch its own strikes from Turkey's strategically located Incirlik airbase.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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