Turkey risks displeasing the US in a number of new areas ahead of next week’s June 14 Nato summit in Brussels on the sidelines of which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet American counterpart Joe Biden.
Areas of concern include Turkish attacks in the vicinity of a refugee camp in northern Iraq where Ankara is targeting “Kurdish terrorists”, a renewed bid in Turkey to shut down the country’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and an attempt at securing tough conditions in return for an agreement for Turkish forces to guard Kabul’s international airport once US troops complete their departure from Afghanistan by early September.
On June 5, Turkey—which already has fraught relations with Nato ally the US over a number of disagreements in areas including its purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems and abysmal human rights record—said it killed a senior Kurdish militant in an airstrike near the Makhmour refugee camp. Erdogan four days previously vowed to target members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that he said were using the camp as a “breeding ground” to seek recruits.
Makhmour houses more than 12,000 Kurdish refugees.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Twitter she warned Turkish officials a day before the strike that any targeting of civilians at Makhmour would constitute a violation of international and humanitarian law.
In Turkey, on June 8, the HDP described a closure case brought against it for alleged ties to militants as a "political operation". The case has been refiled by a prosecutor at the Court of Cassation. It was in March sent back from the Constitutional Court on procedural grounds due to a cited lack of details.
Pervin Buldan, co-leader of the HDP, said the judiciary should investigate recent allegations of corruption made against top government officials by fugitive mafia boss Sedat Peker rather than open a case against her party. "We can see the pit that the judiciary has fallen into," Buldan said, speaking to members of her party, as reported by Reuters.
"The judiciary that cannot, does not come down on crime organisations has become a shield for the mafia order once again by launching a closure case against the HDP," she added.
Turkey has a long history of shutting down political parties seen as a threat and has in the past banned a series of other pro-Kurdish parties. Biden would likely frown on any successful bid to freeze the HDP out of Turkish politics. A year prior to winning the White House, he described Erdogan as an “autocrat” and said opposition parties should be encouraged to try and unseat him.
As regards the Kabul airport, US officials have said Ankara was imposing tough-to-meet conditions on it taking over security at the airport that needed resolving.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on June 8 that the progress of Ankara's offer was dependent on backup from allies. "We intend to stay in Afghanistan depending on conditions. What are our conditions? Political, financial and logistical support. If these are met, we can remain at Hamid Karzai International Airport," he said in a statement.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, were reported by Reuters as saying that they welcomed the Turkish proposal for the airport but that Ankara was asking for too many US "enablers" to fulfil the task.
Turkey has more than 500 troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of a Nato mission to train Afghan security forces. It has said additional troops would be needed for the airport mission.
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