The European Union is turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Turkey in a doomed bid for a solution to its migrant crisis, the leader of Turkey’s main Kurdish party told a Greek newspaper today (17 February).
“Europe is closing its eyes to the trampling of human rights in Turkey and is preparing to succumb to (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan’s threats and blackmail,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas told the Efimerida Ton Syntakton.
But Demirtas, who met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on a visit to Athens, said this policy was a “big mistake”.
“Erdoğan is neither willing nor able to solve the refugee issue,” he said.
The EU has offered Ankara €3 billion to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe via Turkey.
Turkey is hosting 2.5 million refugees from Syria’s civil war and hundreds of thousands from Iraq, and is increasingly bitter that it has been left to shoulder the burden.
Erdoğan has said Turkey had every right to boot the refugees out of the country if it so wished.
Demirtas, 42, has emerged as Erdoğan’s key rival over the last year, with many commentators saying he is the only politician to rival the Turkish strongman’s rhetorical skills.
In his Wednesday interview he said the Turkish army was actively cooperating with extremist groups in Syria.
“They are cooperating with two extreme Islamist groups, they are protecting jihadists and Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria),” Demirtas said.
He added that the groups “cross fighters and weapons from Turkish soil (into Syria) with the cooperation of Turkish authorities.”
The Turkish government labels Demirtas’ HDP as a political front for the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.
The Turkish army has for the last month pressed a campaign to push the PKK out of their southeast urban strongholds, and has repeatedly shelled parts of northern Syria to prevent Kurdish-led forces to seize key areas along the border with Turkey.
Demirtas was in Athens to attend a conference on the 17th anniversary of the capture of jailed PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan, and he called for his release to stop the chaos in southeast Turkey and Syria.
In an apparent show of solidarity, pictures show Demirtas sitting next to Saleh Muslim, head of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, whose fighters were hit by Turkish forces over the weekend. Turkey insists it was returning fire.