By Seyhmus Cakan
Security forces backed by helicopters imposed a curfew in parts of a south-eastern Turkish town on Tuesday and three people were killed in clashes across the region, security sources said, the first deaths since a weekend election.
The military said it carried out air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant bases across the border in northern Iraq on Monday, suggesting there will be no let-up in its campaign following the vote.
The ruling AK Party won back a parliamentary majority on Sunday in a major victory for President Tayyip Erdogan, who has pledged to continue operations against the PKK after a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July.
The PKK said it expected the government to ‘escalate war’, in a statement carried by the Firat news agency, which is close to the militant group.
“The AKP has decided to persist with a war that will bring Turkey face-to-face with big crises at home and abroad,” it said.
In the town of Silvan, militants of the PKK’s youth wing dug trenches to keep police out of some areas and a 22-year-old man was shot dead, security sources said. Police put three neighbourhoods under curfew.
Separately, two men were shot dead during clashes between police and members of the PKK youth wing, one of the group’s most radical elements, in the town of Yuksekova, near the Iranian border, the sources said.
Erdogan had been credited with negotiating a peace process with the PKK beginning in late 2012, but the slow-moving talks ground to a halt before a June election, in which his AKP lost its single-party majority for the first time since 2002.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), much of whose grassroots support is sympathetic to the PKK, has called for an end to the violence and supports a political settlement. It entered parliament as a party for the first time in June. A month later, the 30-year conflict with the PKK re-ignited.
Sunday’s snap election was ordered by Erdogan after the AKP failed to form a coalition. The AKP won 49 percent of the vote but the HDP lost more than a third of its seats, raising fears that a return to peace talks will be difficult.
The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, and more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have been killed. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said for the peace process to continue “elements which poison the process” must be excluded, saying the PKK and HDP had betrayed the talks.
“The operations against the terror group were not linked to the election, they will continue,” he told broadcaster NTV in an interview, saying it was necessary for the PKK to halt fighting and leave Turkey for talks to restart.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to return to the peace process to curb a recent rise in related rights abuses.
“Unless the new government can… reject a resumption of violence and rights violations directed against its Kurdish population, and stop the vicious crackdown on those who don’t agree with them, it is unlikely that Turkey will be able to boast stability over chaos,” said its senior researcher in Turkey, Emma Sinclair-Webb.