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Turkey must set its own policy to face the Syrian crisis -HDP leader

Ahead of Turkey's general elections scheduled on November 1, euronews spoke to Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

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Turkey must set its own policy to face the Syrian crisis -HDP leader

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Ahead of Turkey’s general elections scheduled on November 1, euronews spoke to Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Point of view

Turkey does not have to choose between two blocks. It can and it must form its own policy

euronews::
_First a question of particular interest to the international community. Until June 7 and the general elections in Turkey, a peace process had been engaged with the (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) PKK. For a year and a half it kept the country out of conflict. However, right after the elections, the peace process was halted and violence reappeared. Why?

Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)
“Unfortunately, after June the 7th, the government said it halted the peace process, that the negotiations had been abandoned and that there would no longer be discussions to find a solution. The government instead favoured a military operation. It’s a real shame for Turkey, because for two and a half years during the peace process, huge efforts were deployed. And we reached a phase of negotiation. On February 28 in Istanbul, a memorandum of understanding on the topic was signed and presented to the people. We worked on it together with the government. In fact it was a very good text. It presented at the same time a principle of democratisation in 10 points and at the same time a call and a promise from the PKK to lay down their arms. The President, the Prime Minister and (PKK leader) Abdullah Öcalan all supported this declaration. We, as a political party, also contributed to this declaration. The leaders of the PKK agreed to comply with it. But then what happened is that the peace process, which for two and a half years had earned the government popular support, did not lead to the explosion of votes it was hoping for. And the government realised that this declaration had instead strengthened our party, and it started to see us as a threat to its political future.

euronews:
In the last elections, your party passed the 10 percent threshold. With 80 MPs, you’ve had quite an opportunity to represent the Kurdish issue in parliament. Given this success, how do you explain that the PKK has taken up arms again? Doesn’t that put you in a tough spot, as a political party?

Demirtas:
“The PKK’s leaders are the ones who should be answering this question. We’ve always called for an end to the fighting, to a ceasefire. But on the other hand we’ve seen that the government undermined the truce as soon as we got close to elections.

euronews:
What would be the HDP’s approach on the Kurdish issue after November the 1st? What would be the conditions for a peace process, the parties involved — how should it proceed?

Demirtas:
“The parliament has lately been passive on the topic. So first of all we should make it functional, active, and put it at the centre of the peace process. If we become part of the government after November the 1st, of course we will work hard to have the Kurds considered as a people, and for their linguistic, cultural and political rights to be recognised — like those of all the other peoples. At the same time, we will establish a dialogue and vote new laws to bring the PKK to lay down its arms in Turkey. If we are not part of the government after November the 1st, we will continue our work in the opposition and our democratic efforts to bring the government to make progress on these topics.”

euronews:
The HDP also claims to be the party of all of Turkey. but it’s often described as a political arm of the PKK. More recently, the Nationalist Movement Party called the HDP an extension of the PKK. What is your relationship with the PKK, which the international community largely sees as a terrorist organization?

Demirtas:
“We are not the PKK’s political arm. There is confusion in Turkey on this topic. One party alleges we’re a political extension of the PKK, another one says the PKK is increasing its attacks so that the HDP cannot pass the electoral threshold… There is a lot of confusion around this question among Turkey’s political parties.”

euronews:
Are you worried that this time around you might not pass the 10 percent threshold like you did in June?

Demirtas:
“I think our party will obtain a better result. In our mind, our threshold is 13 percent right now. We will do better than that in any case. Everybody in Turkey is aware of what’s going on — listen, the President in his palace has waged a war to serve his presidency and his own ambitions. The Turkish people feel these issues from the bottom of their heart. Look at the funerals of martyrs, hear the cries and the sorrow of their families. The HDP didn’t cause this war, it does not command it nor does it control it. It does not control the weapons. There is on one hand the President, and on the other the PKK. The one fighting the most for peace is the HDP. And Turkey is well aware of that.

euronews:
Let’s imagine that the Kurdish political movement becomes part of the government.When you look at foreign policy, for instance in Syria, do you back the United States and the Western camp, or the likes of Russia, China and Iran? And in Syria, do you favour a transition process with or without Assad?

Demirtas:
“Turkey does not have to choose between two blocks. It can and it must form its own policy. Turkey is Syria’s biggest neighbor — both countries have very close historical, cultural and economic ties. So it doesn’t necessarily have to choose between two camps. Turkey must establish good relations with various peoples, beliefs, and identities in Syria. What has been done so far? There has been favouritism towards certain groups. Contacts have been made exclusively with radical Sunnis. These groups have been supported by Turkey. This pushed Syria into even more inextricable problems, and meanwhile Turkey has lost its standing.
What we should have been doing is this: establish good relations with the Shiite Syrians, with Christians, Armenians and Turkmens. Those trying to link the issue to Assad and debating whether he should stay or go — those people are blind. Unfortunately Turkey is also blind. If we are elected, we will first of all take decisive measures to weaken the support to al-Qaida and similar groups. We will improve the safety of our borders. We will stop all crossings towards Syria.

euronews:
Let me ask this differently. The terrorist organisation calling itself Islamic State is a huge problem and it’s right at the border with Turkey. If, as part of the fight against this group, the parliament was faced with a motion authorising a military intervention, what would your reaction be?

Demirtas:
“We cannot tolerate any military operation or ground intervention. This would make things extremely complicated. Of course Turkey must show more support towards the international coalition fighting ISIL. But its job is not to send military troops. It must sever all of ISIL’s logistics, information and resources, both financial and human. Doing all this is easy for Turkey and it would be very efficient. Because unfortunately, we’ve seen evidence of weapons being delivered to Syria through Turkey. Trucks said to be going to Turkmens have reportedly been used to bring arms and equipment to radical groups. And most of the aid coming from Europe has unfortunately been intercepted by radicals such as ISIL and other groups such as the Nusra Front.

euronews:
What do you mean by the aid coming from Europe?

Demirtas:
“You know that there has been a lot of humanitarian aid from Europe. Humanitarian aid trucks have been sent to Syria. But they have been intercepted by ISIL and radical groups. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s why we think Turkey should change its policy, accept negotiation and try to find a solution. Furthermore, rather than having to choose between two blocks, it must establish its own policy. That’s what Turkey really needs.”