The military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said in a statement on Saturday that Armenia had handed over two of its fighters to Turkey.
On Friday, Turkey’s state media had claimed that the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) had brought two People’s Defence Forces (HPG) fighters to Turkey in an operation on the border.
But in a statement issued by the HPG, it said that Atilla Çiçek and Hüseyin Yıldırım were extradited by Armenia and handed over to Turkey a month ago.
According to the HPG, the two fighters stumbled across Armenian forces on the border and were arrested in August 2021. Çiçek and Yıldırım then fought against their continued detention in the courts, and the Armenian Court of Appeals decided in favour of their release in February 2022.
“According to both international and Armenian law, they should then have been released. Instead, they were abducted and detained by the Armenian secret service. After certain initiatives were taken they were again promised release, but despite this they were extradited from Armenia to Turkey about a month ago,” the HPG said.
“This is how our two comrades fell into the hands of the Turkish state. But the Turkish state’s special war media has presented the operation as a highly successful MİT operation,” it added.
Meanwhile in Dersim province in eastern Turkey, Çiçek’s family and representatives of the Human Rights Association (İHD), told the press that Turkish authorities have declined to provide information on the situation of two fighters.
The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), a transnational umbrella organisation that includes the PKK, condemned Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government, calling the extradition of the two fighters a betrayal of the Armenian people, who have struggled against genocide.
“The handing over of our two friends to Turkey shows the truth of the collaborative and traitorous policies the Pashinian government has been following implicitly to date,” the KCK said.
Relations between Turkey and Armenia have been strained for decades, and the border between the two countries was sealed in 1993 in the wake of clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
However, the relations between the two countries, which have no diplomatic ties took, a positive turn recently, after Azerbaijan, militarily strengthened with Turkish combat drones, scored a decisive victory in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh region in a 44-day war with Armenia. In November 2020 the Armenian capital Baku and the Azerbaijani capital Yerevan agreed on a Russia-supported peace deal.
Ankara and Baku took steps to normalise relations in December 2021 by announcing the decision to mutually appoint envoys for new talks to restore ties. The appointed envoys struck an agreement in July on citizens of third countries crossing the Armenian-Turkish land border.
The news about the two extradited Kurdish fighters came amidst clashes flaring up between Armenia and Azerbaijan this month that led to the killing of more than 200 troops from both sides. The two sides brokered a fragile ceasefire on 15 September but continue blaming each other for alleged violations.
The same day Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called on Armenia to cease provocations against Azerbaijan, reaffirming that Turkey will not proceed with the normalisation process with Yerevan independently of Baku.