ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A representative in Turkey of a leading party from the Kurdistan Region warned his leadership over ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by highlighting a Turkish official’s recent remarks accusing the party of supporting the armed group.
Bahroz Galalayi, the representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Ankara, sent an open letter on Thursday, primarily addressed to leaders Kosrat Rasul and Hero Ibrahim, claiming a risk of potential armed conflict as a result of party policies, shown by recent comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“The attached is part of today’s speech by Turkish Foreign Minister that clearly says PUK supports the PKK,” read the letter posted on Galalayi’s official Facebook account.
“This is very dangerous," the party envoy stated. "It is the result of statements made by some within the PUK, who, when speaking to the media; forget about themselves, the interests of the PUK, the PUK in the region, and instead talk about sending forces to Afrin.”
The PKK is a Kurdish guerrilla group headquartered in the Qandil Mountains of the Kurdistan Region that has been fighting a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish government inside Turkey and is designated as a ‘terrorist’ organization by Turkey, the EU, and the US.
On Jan. 20, Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a joint military operation to capture the Kurdish enclave of Afrin located in northwestern Syria. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD) as extensions of the outlawed PKK.
In a press conference on Jan. 21, Mala Bakhtiyar, a senior Politburo member and head of the Executive Body of the party, said that, if given access, the PUK will send forces to Afrin to defend it against the Turkish operation.
Galalayi's statement continued, “They should not have made such a statement. If you [PUK] have troops, why don’t you send them to Afrin, then? Don’t carry large stones if you cannot throw them. You only damage the interests of the Kurds and the PUK by issuing such statements."
“None of you are stronger than Mam Jalal [Talabani, the deceased PUK leader]. He never made such remarks, claiming he'd send forces against the troops of another country.”
He went on to criticize PUK officials for their public disunity, saying they often issued conflicting statements which he charged was harmful to the party as a whole.
“The PUK has its spokesperson, so why is there such chaos?" asked Galalayi. "If we care about Kurds and the PUK, we should abandon inappropriate statements, strengthen unity in the PUK, and normalize relations with Baghdad, Turkey, and Iran."
On Thursday in Ankara, Cavusoglu stated that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is serious in launching an anti-PKK military operation in the Qandil Mountains and Shingal (Sinjar).
He also stated that Ankara is concerned about the “direct coordination” between the PKK and the PUK in Sulaimani Province.
The PUK representative warned that, if Turkey adds the party to its list of terrorist groups, it could result in Ankara launching future attacks on Sulaimani Province, where the party is most prominent.
The remarks were made the day after overnight Turkish airstrikes targetting PKK fighters in Sulaimani's Choman district are reported to have killed four civilians, an action condemned by both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Ties between the PUK and Turkey have been strained since Aug. 2017 when the PKK arrested two Turkish intelligence agents in Sulaimani. Ankara reacted by temporarily expelling Galalayi from Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday announced the flight ban on Erbil would no longer affect Turkish flights, stating the decision was "effective immediately."
"However, this is only effective for Erbil. There will be no flights to Sulaymaniyah [Sulaimani]. Because, unfortunately, the terror group's activities against our country [Turkey] continue intensely."
Editing by John J. Catherine