The killing in Paris of three Kurdish women with ties to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) may put additional strain on relations between Turkey and France, two countries that have not been on good terms politically since the term of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president.
The killing of these women put France, which was trying to improve its relations with Turkey, in an awkward position when French President François Hollande revealed that he had regularly met with one of them, probably Fidan Do?an. The crime also shone the spotlight once more on France’s known lax attitude towards PKK terrorists.
“Turkey’s attitude [on this issue] will differ depending on whether the contact François Hollande had with her was before he was elected president, when he was party leader, or after,” a senior Turkish diplomat told Today’s Zaman on condition of anonymity.
A French television channel, France 24, said Turkey is questioning Hollande about the ties he had with the Kurdish woman and noted that Turkey has repeatedly accused France and certain other European countries of not cooperating in the fight against the PKK terrorist. A leading French daily, Le Monde, published a similar report on Saturday.
However, analysts believe that what has come out since the execution of the three Kurdish women in Paris will not further deteriorate diplomatic relations between the two countries. “Under normal circumstances, this would have a more negative impact on bilateral diplomatic relations, but I believe. However, the Turkish government will not aggrandize the issue so as not to harm the peace initiative it has just launched to solve the Kurdish issue,” Sinan Ülgen, chairman of the ?stanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), told Today’s Zaman.
The deaths of the three women come at a time when state officials are engaged in talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, to broker a deal for the disarming of the terrorist group. They are generally being interpreted as an effort to invalidate the Turkish government’s initiative.
French police currently believe the execution of the three Kurdish women is connected to the peace initiative began by the Turkish government. Le Figaro, a French daily, maintained in a news piece published on Sunday that the killing is sure to have been politically motivated. “The timing of the crime is not innocent at all. At a time when the Turkish government is having talks with Öcalan, a figure close to Öcalan has been killed,” said a police officer who spoke to the daily on condition of anonymity.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an criticized the French president for meeting with people connected with the terrorist PKK. “The French president should immediately disclose to the Turkish, French and world public for what purpose he met with these members of the terrorist organization, what he discussed with them and to what end he was in communication with them,” Erdo?an said on Saturday, also adding: “How can you routinely meet with members of an organization labeled a terrorist group by the European Union and being sought by Interpol? What kind of politics is this?”
For Atilla Sand?kl?, chairman of the ?stanbul-based Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies, we should not expect bilateral relations to be adversely affected because what has been realized following the killing in Paris, that the PKK can freely operate in France, is something that has been commonly known for a long time. However, he drew attention to the fact that bilateral ties between the two countries are already strained.
Sand?kl? noted: “Erdo?an recently visited three African countries, all of which were former colonies of France. Erdo?an’s discourse during these visits was aimed at driving France into a corner.” He recalled words spoken by Erdo?an at the Gabonese parliament that “history will certainly, in due time, call those to account who took away Africa’s diamonds, gold and minerals.”
Upon the request of the families, the bodies of the three women — PKK co-founder Sakine Cans?z, Fidan Do?an and Leyla Söylemez — who were shot dead at the Kurdistan Information Center in Paris earlier this week will be sent to Turkey for burial. The bodies will reportedly be buried in the provinces of Tunceli, Kahramanmara? and Diyarbak?r.
Erdo?an said the killings may be the result of PKK infighting or an attempt to derail Turkey’s efforts to end the Kurdish conflict, which has implications for Syria, Iran and Iraq and their Kurdish ethnic minorities. “The killings in Paris may have been an attempt aimed at sabotaging this initiative. It may also be score-settling within the ranks of the separatist terrorist group,” he said.
The prime minister rejected allegations by Kurdish groups that elements from the Turkish state were behind the killings, drawing attention to earlier crimes committed by the terrorist PKK. Noting that the PKK is not irreproachable when it came to killings inside the organization, Erdo?an stated: “Quite a few young people were executed by gunfire. The mothers of those killed were not even informed of where their children’s graves lie. We have [evidence of] all this in our documents. Cans?z’s fiancé was executed by the terrorist organization.”
Sakine Cans?z, who was detained in Germany in 2007, was not extradited to Turkey despite Turkey’s demands. Turkey also sent a message to Interpol in France in October of last year to inform them that terrorist Sakine Cans?z was living in Paris. “Unfortunately, France did not take any steps,” Erdo?an said and demanded that French authorities apprehend those behind the attack and explain the incident at once.
Selahattin Demirta? and Gülten K??anak, co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), as well as Aysel Tu?luk, an independent deputy for Van province, had gone to Paris to look into the killings and speak with French officials and returned to Turkey on Saturday evening. Demirta? told reporters at the ?stanbul Atatürk Airport that they had spoken with French Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls about the killings and that they had observed the French investigating the issue seriously.
The BDP deputies also spoke with the lawyers responsible for the case as well as with individuals associated with the women who were killed. Talking about his impressions, Demita? said: “There is no concrete information regarding the crime. The crime seems to have been committed in a very professional manner. That is what the French minister of the interior also said.” He added that the French interior minister’s resolve left them feeling assured that it will be possible to obtain some information about the crime when the police investigation is complete.
Thousands of PKK supporters from across Europe gathered in Paris to protest the killings. Demirta? and other BDP deputies also attended the rally, held on Saturday. “Continue to raise your voice until the murderers are caught,” BDP deputy K??anak said when addressing the rally, at which slogans in favor of the PKK and its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, were chanted.