A senior official from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said Turkey’s president reached out to propose a ceasefire agreement that would end their conflict in Turkey and the Kurdistan Region while intra-Kurdish tensions are high.
“A few months ago [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan asked us, through some friends, to declare a ceasefire in Turkey,” Murat Karayilan, member of the PKK executive committee, said in an interview aired on Sterk TV on Thursday.
The message from Erdogan was that, if a truce is declared in Turkey, then “whatever you do in other parts of Kurdistan, will not be [Ankara’s] business,” Karayilan said.
The PKK leader said this was an attempt by Turkey to encourage a war between the PKK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is the main ruling party in the Kurdistan Region and enjoys strong ties with Ankara. “This is the enemy’s game. We need to be aware,” said Karayilan.
The offer from Turkey was made in secret and Karayilan wanted to raise it in a meeting with KDP leader Masoud Barzani or other officials, but decided to “reveal it to the Kurdish public now.”
Historic tensions between the PKK and KDP are once again elevated as the PKK is under intense pressure from Turkey’s armed forces and drone power, and the guerrillas are blamed for two separate attacks on Peshmerga forces that resulted in the death of six. The PKK has denied involvement in the deaths.
The PKK is an armed group fighting for greater rights for Kurds in Turkey. It has bases in the Kurdistan Region’s mountains and Turkish forces frequently cross the border, launching air and ground campaigns against the group. Ankara’s latest operations, Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt, have been ongoing since April in northern Duhok. On Friday, Turkey’s defense ministry claimed it had “neutralized” two PKK fighters in northern Duhok in an operation that continues “without interruption.”
Last week, five Peshmerga were killed on Mount Metina. Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani tweeted his condemnation, calling it a “PKK attack on the Peshmerga.”
“In this moment of urgency, I urge the Kurdistan Parliament and political parties to speak in a single voice against this aggression,” he added.
The PKK said their fighters “opened fire into the air with personal weapons in order to warn” the Peshmerga when they entered an area on the mountain where the PKK are present, but denied they were responsible for the fatal strike.
The two forces are in close proximity, just 200 to 300 metres apart, Karayilan said, accusing the KDP-linked Peshmerga of putting up barricades and building roads to PKK bases, with the cooperation of Iraqi forces. “There is now a dangerous situation in Metina. Every moment there is a possibility of a war between us and the KDP,” he said, calling for a halt to activities that are escalating tensions.
The KDP presence on Mount Metina “will be support for Turkey and disruption of the guerilla resistance,” he added.
In a statement on Thursday, the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Interior accused the PKK of interfering “internal affairs of the Kurdistan Region and creating unrest.”
“We hereby declare to the public that protecting the stability and security of the Kurdistan Region in general and Erbil in particular is a red line, and we will not allow any group to disturb this,” the ministry added.
The PKK has called for an independent investigation into the deaths of the Peshmerga troops. Karayilan said the incident on Mount Metina was something “no one wanted. We don’t want a war to break out between us… That’s why we want it to be investigated.”
Members of the Kurdistan Region and Iraqi parliaments visited Duhok province on Tuesday to investigate the Turkish-PKK conflict, harm to civilians to the conflict area, and tensions between the PKK and Peshmerga. They are expected to release a report on their investigation.
The PKK’s relations with the other main party in the Kurdistan Region, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have fluctuated, but PUK-controlled areas are a relatively safe haven for PKK fighters.
Mala Bakhtiar, executive council chief of the PUK, on Wednesday said if the PKK is responsible for the Peshmerga deaths, “it’s a huge crime,” but he called on both sides to avoid escalating tensions further.
“After this incident, the PKK needs to consider a military-political solution and move the guerillas out of the line of confrontation with the Peshmerga… and end NATO planes bombing civilians,” Bakhtiar said, referring to Turkey’s air campaigns.
The KDP, he said, should keep its cool “and not lose the staid policy it has pursued in recent years.”
Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region, also issued a call for calm. “We all have big responsibilities, all of our efforts should be directed at solving, not complicating the situation,” he said.