Kurdish party chief dismisses Turkey anti-IS raids as a ‘show’

Ankara: The co-leader of Turkey’s main Kurdish party today dismissed air strikes and police raids by Ankara against Islamic State (IS) jihadists as a “show”, saying their real target was Kurdish militants.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Selahattin Demirtas of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the peace process between Turkey and Kurdish militants was now “in deep crisis” due to the offensive by Ankara against the separatist rebels but insisted it should not be written off.

Turkey has launched a two-pronged offensive against IS jihadists and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants but the strikes against the Kurdish rebels have been far the more frequent and intense.

Demirtas accused the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using strikes against IS as “cover” for its main goal of striking the PKK and weakening the HDP’s major electoral gains.

“A few air raids were launched by Turkey against IS targets for show only and it is over,” he said.

“So-called IS suspects were detained with a few operations for show and most of them were released,” he said.

According to figures from the Turkish government, around one tenth of those arrested in raids against suspected militants were IS-linked and the rest largely Kurdish.

Demirtas said that the air strikes on IS were “used as cover” for the far more extensive bombings of PKK positions.

For almost a week, Turkish army jets have pounded Kurdish militant targets inside Turkey and in neighbouring northern Iraq.

Demirtas accused Erdogan of harming the peace process by equating IS with the PKK, two groups who are themselves vehemently opposed.

“This (the peace process) was going to be settled,” before the Turkish air offensive, said Demirtas, adding that Erdogan was trying to put the PKK and IS on the “same scale”.

The PKK, designated as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies, had until now largely observed a truce declared by its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in March 2013.

Demirtas accused Erdogan of orchestrating the crisis in the hope of bolstering his own powers after the ruling party’s lacklustre performance in the June 7 legislative election when it lost its overall majority.

He said the military operations were a manoeuvre to oust the HDP from parliament in a snap poll and impose effective one-party government.

“This war is not waged to protect our country’s soil but to protect the future of the Palace,” Demirtas said, referring to Erdogan’s controversial and costly new presidential palace which has been bitterly criticised by the opposition.