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January 15, 2013, Tuesday

Syria’s possible role in the Paris killings

The recent killing of three Kurdish women in Paris who had links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which was interpreted by Turkish politicians as an attempt to sabotage the peace initiative launched by the government to settle the decades-old terrorism issue has caused worries in the Turkish media that the killings would indeed hamper the peace process, with question marks remaining about who staged the attack and why.

Radikal's Koray Çalışkan mentions a recent interview with politician İlhami Işık, who said that one of three countries --- Iran, Iraq and Syria -- was likely to be behind the murder. He then looks into each of the possible countries. “It is not very likely that Iran staged the attack as it does not want to anger the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan [PJAK], the Iranian wing of the PKK. The possibility of Iraq staging the attack is not high, either, as this country, which is currently struggling to function as a normal state, would not dare to conduct such a complicated cross-border operation. And as for Syria, many claim that considering the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has left some areas under the control of the Democratic Union Party [PYD], the PKK's political offshoot in Syria, and that Syria supports, although temporarily, the autonomy of Kurds, it is not very likely that Syria might have planned such an attack against the PKK. However, on the other side of the coin, Syria supports the PKK as long as it keeps its demands on the table and continues with its war against Turkey. Assad prefers a PKK that is weakening Turkey through its terror acts to a PKK that is negotiating peace with the country. That is why Syria has a reason to attack the PKK. It is to sabotage the peace talks,” he argues.

As to whether it is actually possible for Syria to carry out such an operation, Çalışkan says that despite the common discourse in the Turkish media claiming that Assad is about to be overthrown any day, it is a fact that Assad's regime actually has the power to fight against the opposition groups that are supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US, France, England and Turkey. It makes sense that Syria might have intended to send a message to the PKK that “if you give up your fight against Turkey and move to Europe, you will never be in safe” with the Paris killings, the columnist notes.

Agreeing with Çalışkan, Eyüp Can, another columnist for Radikal, also speculates that the fact that PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had previously told his brother to convey a message to the PKK that the terrorist group would start supporting the Syrian opposition rather than Assad's forces might be the very reason why Syria could be behind the Paris murders.

On the other hand, Taraf's Kurtuluş Tayiz says the killings set off a round of accusations, with each side accusing the other of being behind the killings and thus escalating tensions. However, polemics, harsh exchanges and attitudes inciting rage and hatred will only render the peace process less effective. We should be more cautious until the French police investigation is completed and we receive definite information, he suggests.

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