Turkey calls for NATO meeting to discuss security threats
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Sunday called for a meeting of its NATO allies to discuss threats to its security and its airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants in Syria and Kurdish rebels in Iraq.
The move came as Turkey’s state-run media reported that Turkish F-16 jets again took off from the country’s southeastern Diyarbakir air base to hit Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK targets across the border in northern Iraq.
There was no immediate confirmation of the report by TRT television, which came hours after authorities said PKK militants detonated a car-bomb near Diyarbakir, killing two soldiers and wounding four others.
NATO announced that its decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, will convene Tuesday after Ankara invoked the alliance’s Article 4, which allows member states to request a meeting if they feel their territorial integrity or security is under threat.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Turkey would inform allies about the airstrikes which followed an IS suicide bombing near Turkey’s border with Syria that left 32 people dead, and an IS attack on Turkish forces, which killed a soldier.
Turkey requested the meeting, which includes ambassadors of all 28 member countries, “in view of the seriousness of the situation after the heinous terrorist attacks in recent days,” NATO said.
NATO itself is not involved in operations against the Islamic State group, although many of its members are. As an alliance, however, NATO is committed to helping defend Turkey.
Turkey has simultaneously bombed Islamic State group positions near its border with Syria and Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq. It has also carried out widespread police operations against suspected Kurdish and IS militants and other outlawed groups inside Turkey. Hundreds of people have been detained.
Tensions flared with the Kurds following the IS suicide bombing, as Kurdish groups blamed the government for not doing enough to prevent IS operations. On Wednesday, PKK claimed responsibility for the killing of two policemen in the Kurdish majority city of Sanliurfa.
PKK has said Turkey’s airstrikes likely spell the end of a cease-fire announced in 2013.
The PKK has fought Turkey for autonomy for Kurds in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984. The Kurds are an ethnic group with their own language living in a region spanning present-day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia.
The car bomb exploded on a road in the town of Lice as a vehicle carrying military police officers was traveling to intervene against Kurds who had blocked a main intersection and set cars on fire. The military said a large-scale operation was underway to capture the attackers.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, expressed support for Turkey’s efforts against terrorism, including the IS group, in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu but also urged Turkey to keep the peace process with the Kurds “alive and on track.”
Similarly, the German government said Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone Sunday with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and assured him of “Germany’s solidarity and support in the fight against terrorism.”
She also “appealed not to give up the peace process with the Kurds, but to stick to it despite all the difficulties,” a government statement said.
A statement from Davutoglu’s office said the Turkish leader for his part, told Merkel that Turkey would take all measures needed to fight terrorism and would resume cross border raids when deemed necessary while continuing “to take steps toward a (Kurdish) settlement and democratization.”
Late Saturday, the White House said Turkey has the right to defend itself against attacks by Kurdish rebels. Spokesman Alistair Baskey strongly condemned recent attacks by the PKK, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group, and said the PKK should renounce terrorism and resume talks with Turkey’s government.
But Baskey also said both sides should avoid violence and pursue de-escalation.
Authorities banned a peace rally, scheduled for Sunday in Istanbul to denounce this week’s suicide bombing, on grounds that it may be used by outlawed groups for “provocative” acts. Organizers instead read out a brief statement to a crowd of some 1,000 who dispersed peacefully.
In another Istanbul neighborhood, police clashed with demonstrators protesting the death Friday of a woman suspected of being a member of the outlawed leftist DHKP-C. Officials said the woman was killed in a gunbattle with police during the government crackdown on terror groups.
Protesters hurled bottles, rocks and firebombs at police and a policeman died in hospital after being shot as he entered a building to arrest some of the demonstrators, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Associated Press writers John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Josh Lederman and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.