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EXCLUSIVE: Turkish FM: ‘We Don’t Have Any Problem with the Kurds’

WASHINGTON – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told Breitbart News that, while his country does not have “any problems with the Kurds,” they are not amenable to an independent, Kurdish state at the moment.

“We are against any division of countries,” Çavuşoğlu said from the National Press Club in D.C. earlier this month. “Dividing Syria and dividing Iraq is very dangerous, risky. We don’t have any problem with the Kurds, but we fully support the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria.”

During the interview, Çavuşoğlu said, “we have Kurds in my country.” He suggested that “the big majority of the Kurds are voting for my party, AK Party.”

However, the DW notes that “Opinion polls indicate that it will be a close result, and as such President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-conservative AKP party are still fighting for every vote.” The site adds, “Ultimately, the Kurdish areas in southeastern Anatolia are likely to be decisive. However, the election process is particularly difficult to foresee because, alongside the AKP, the pro-Kurdish left-wing opposition party HDP is also very popular and is campaigning for ‘no’ in the referendum.”

According to Rudaw, Ibrahim Kalin, a top aide to Erdogan said last week that a referendum for an independent Kurdish state would be a “wrong step.”

Kurdish nationals have reportedly supported the AK Party in the past. However, fallout between the government and many Kurdish voters last year gave rise to Kurdish support for the leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which represents the rights of minorities like Turkey’s Kurdish population.

In Belgium, several Kurds were reportedly stabbed by Turks on their way to voting absentee in the upcoming Turkish referendum.

According to the Middle East Eye, “Prior to last June’s elections, many voters in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority areas have traditionally voted for AKP, which had won every successive parliamentary election since 2002.” As one Turkish Kurd described it to the Financial Times, “It’s the AKP that gave the Kurds the most rights in the past. A coalition would not have the power to solve anything.”

The HDP has been critical of the AK Party’s policies, particularly their stance on Syria’s Kurdistan and their reluctance to provide military assistance to Syrian Kurds fighting the Islamic State in Kobane. Galip Dalay, a research director at al-Sharq Forum and senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish Affairs at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, told the Middle East Eye that the AKP’s adoption of  “a more nationalist language, which did not go very well with the (Kurdish) voters,’ even though the rhetoric was not coupled with any ‘concrete’ action on the ground.”

Turkey has also used the legal system against the Kurds in the past. The Guardian reported that, in 1991, Turkey’s first Kurdish MP Leyla Zana was imprisoned for 10 years after adding a sentence in Kurdish following her recital of Turkey’s oath of allegiance. reciting the oath of allegiance, she added a sentence in her own language.

The BBC notes that the Kurds have accused Turkey of using the U.S.-led coalition strikes against the Islamic State as a cover to attack the PKK in Turkey and Iraq, and even against the YPG in northern Syria. Last year, The Economist argued, “Turkey’s president must give up trying to crush the Kurds. Instead, he should reopen peace talks.”

Çavuşoğlu told Breitbart News, “We are supporting the Kurdish regional government in Iraq, more than anybody. But we have the terror problem, which is PKK and YPG. And there is no difference between PKK and YPG; same cadre, same camps, same terrorist organization. Only the name is different.”

He added that the YPG has allegedly closed down more than 10 Kurdish political parties in Syria, noting his belief that they were carrying out a sort of “ethnic cleansing” by forcing Kurds and Arabs who do not share their Marxist-Communist ideology to leave the war-ravaged country. He suggested, “this is also very risky for the stability of the country.”

While the AK Party does not distinguish between the PKK and YPG (Kurdish Democratic Union Party), the United States identifies them as two different groups: the PKK a State Department-designated terrorist organization, and the YPG (and all-female unit YPJ), an allied militia. The YPG are pro-West and are opposed to Islamists. The U.S. supports the YPG’s efforts in Syria, as they have been successful in helping with the fight against the Islamic State.

While also supportive of the American mission to eradicate the Islamic State in Iraq, the military of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq, the Peshmerga, are not allied with the YPG or PKK, instead keeping friendly ties to Turkey.

In Iraq, Yazidi militias in northern Iraq have previously protested that the PKK prevented them from launching a mission to recapture Sinjar after the terrorists stormed the region in 2014. Last year, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani considered deploying its Peshmerga soldiers against members of the PKK who have refused to leave Iraq’s northern Sinjar region.

Breitbart News previously reported that the Pentagon, which has been working with the Kurds to take Daesh down, has cast some doubt on Turkey’s role in taking Daesh out in the northern reaches of Syria.

“We have made clear… that we are open to a Turkish role in the continued operations to defeat ISIS in northern Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Col. John Dorrian said. “We haven’t come to an agreement about what that role will be or if there will be one.” He added, “I think I’d like to leave it at we would expect Kurds to be involved. And that’s probably about where we’re at.”

Turkey has been hit by several terrorist bombings over the past two years, carried out by both members of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and by terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Last June, the Islamic State carried out a series of suicide bombings in Istanbul, leaving over 40 dead and more than 230 injured. Then, in August, triple bombings rocked Turkey leaving half a dozen dead and over 300 injured. The AKP blamed the PKK for the attack.

In March of last year, for example, a car bomb struck the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir, which hosts the nation’s largest Kurdish population, injuring at least fourteen people. The Turkish government blamed the PKK for the attack.

An ex-Islamic State militant told Newsweek in 2014 that the Islamic State cooperated with Turkey: “ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks.” He added, “ISIS and Turkey cooperate together on the ground on the basis that they have a common enemy to destroy, the Kurds.”

In conclusion, Çavuşoğlu told Breitbart News, “There is no room for terrorist organizations in the country. It doesn’t matter which terrorists. Daesh, al-Nusra, YPG, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “They are all the same. Different ideologies, different ethnics groups, but all the terrorists are evil. We need to defeat them. We shouldn’t support them. We cannot cooperate with them.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz

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