Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that Turkey’s cross-border military operations against Syria and Iraq will continue. Erdoğan also targeted the main opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for meeting with the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the parliament this week, by calling the meeting held as “meeting with the separatists“.
“On 14 May, we will defeat the main opposition and those who are with them all together; and their aims of blackening the future of our country by sitting at the same table with those [separatists],” said Erdoğan, speaking at the dinner on the first day of Ramadan in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş (Mereş), the epicentre of the February earthquakes.
Arguing that for citizens in the east and southeast, “peace has been established in the region” thanks to Turkey’s cross-border operations, Erdoğan stated that the Turkish Armed Forces’ operations against Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria will continue.
After meeting with HDP co-chairs, Kılıçdaroğlu, the presidential candidate of the opposition bloc which is made up of six parties known as the Table of Six, said that the place for the solution to the Kurdish issue was the parliament and vowed to resolve the conflict in the country.
Ahead of the general elections due to be held on 14 May, almost all polls and analyses indicate that Kurdish votes will determine the election result. After Kılıçdaroğlu’s statement, Turkey’s Labour and Freedom Alliance led by the HDP announced that it will not field a candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections, making Kılıçdaroğlu a serious challenger to Erdoğan.
Polls also show that Erdoğan, who believes he has established calm with cross-border operations in the Kurdish-majority east and southeast, has almost completely lost support among the Kurds.
Some analysts evaluated Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) recent election cooperation with the Kurdish Islamist party Hüda-Pa as the Turkish President’s attempt to win some of the Kurdish votes. However, this cooperation made some members of the AKP and its other allies uneasy because of Hüda-Par’s past.
In a live broadcast he attended on Wednesday evening, Erdoğan defined Hüda-Par as a “completely local and national structure” and said that he found the support of the Islamist party valuable.
Hüda-Par was founded in 2012 on the ashes of the outlawed Kurdish Hizbullah, unrelated to the Lebanese Hizbullah. The Kurdish extremist Sunni group emerged in southeast Turkey in 1985 and declared the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as its arch enemy in the 1990s. Some 700 people died during the decade as a result of clashes between the two groups.