Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a strong critic of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, said on Wednesday that Assad's government had created a “terrorist state” in Syria when voicing frustration with an ongoing bloody campaign on civilians by the Syrian government.
“The regime in Syria has now become a terrorist state,” the prime minister said at an expanded meeting of his Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) in Ankara that included deputies and founding members. “The massacres in Syria that gain strength from the international community's indifference continue to increase,” Erdoğan stated, adding that the number of refugees in Turkey who have fled violence in Syria is nearing 80,000.
“A great human tragedy is taking place in Syria. Turkey is not just another country for the Syrian people. No one can expect Turkey to remain indifferent to the sufferings of the Syrian people,” the prime minister went on to say during the meeting.
Turkey began to welcome refugees fleeing the violence in Syria shortly after the Assad government started its bloody campaign against opposition forces roughly 17 months ago. Ankara initially cultivated good relations with the Assad regime, but Erdoğan has become one of Assad's harshest critics in the face of the Syrian government's continued bloody campaign on civilians and opposition forces.
Turkey, struggling to cope with an influx of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, has repeatedly pushed for a foreign-protected safe zone inside Syria, but the proposal has gained little international support.
The prime minister also said Turkey will continue to raise its voice against the Syrian regime and stand up for the people of Syria. “We will continue to host our Syrian brothers within the bounds of our capabilities,” he stated.
Turkey's ties with the Syrian government deteriorated further recently after Turkish state officials accused Assad and his government of supplying arms to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In an earlier statement, Erdoğan raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria if the PKK becomes a threat there. Assad has denied the claim that Syria allows PKK terrorists to operate in Syrian territory.
Listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the United States, the PKK has been carrying out a bloody war in Turkey's Southeast since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the terrorist PKK and Turkish forces since the PKK launched its fight with the aim of establishing a separate Kurdish state in the predominantly Kurdish region of the country.
Erdoğan also lashed out at the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) over its allegations that the Turkish government is covertly arming and training members of the Syrian opposition at a refugee camp located in Turkey's Hatay province, near the border with Syria. He said members of a parliamentary commission visited the camp, located in the Apaydın village, on Tuesday, but that the CHP deputies in the commission did not go. “If you were sincere in this [criticism], why did your deputies in the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission not go there? Why? Because they knew they could not show off there. … Sorry, Mr. [Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu, you will not be allowed to show off there. Because these camps are not the place to show off. They are where [the state] provides service,” he added.
‘PKK receives support from domestic, int'l circles'
The terrorist PKK also received its share of harsh criticism during Erdoğan's speech on Tuesday. In its latest attack, the terrorist group killed 10 members of security forces in Şırnak, in southeastern Turkey, on Sunday.
Erdoğan said the terrorist PKK is a “subcontractor organization that disrespects all humanitarian and sacred values.” He added: “This organization benefits from the [geographical] conditions of the area [in eastern and southeastern Turkey]. And it receives strength and support from treacherous circles both within the country and abroad. This organization receives support from countries and circles that are enemies of Turkey.”
The prime minister expressed his condolences to the families of the 10 security force members killed in Şırnak's Beytüşşebap district late Sunday by the terrorist PKK. “As the mother of one of our martyrs said before, we have to stand tall in the face of the terrorist group,” he said, calling on his audience not to bow to acts of terrorism. “We will not cry, my dear friends. We will maintain our resolution in the strongest way possible. We will not make the terrorist group happy nor will we allow it to achieve its objectives by sowing the seeds of hatred within our people,” Erdoğan said.
The terrorist PKK claims to be fighting for the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. Turkish state officials, however, say this is not the case. The terrorist group does not refrain from killing Kurds in its bloody attacks. Within its borders, the Turkish state has granted more cultural rights to Kurds as a means of easing the long-running conflict with a significant portion of the ethnic minority, but there is still a great deal of distrust between Ankara and many Kurds.
“The terrorist group does not dare challenge our security forces. It uses children, women and innocent civilians as shields and stages attacks after cowardly infiltrating crowds. And it runs away after staging attacks. It has no trace of dignity,” Erdoğan stated, adding that the PKK also targets officials and members of the AK Party. Earlier this week, the terrorist group abducted AK Party Hakkari branch head Mecit Tarhan.
Previously, the PKK abducted CHP deputy Hüseyin Aygün. Aygün, who was kidnapped on Aug. 12, was released after two days. The prime minister does not believe that the CHP deputy was really kidnapped by the PKK. “What kind of a kidnapping was that? He was sent back two days after being kidnapped. His [Aygün's] statements were so strange. “They [members of the PKK] were good kids; they treated me politely.” This was what he [Aygün] said. … It was all a story. Take no offense, but no one will believe you,” Erdoğan stated.
Aygün drew the ire of many people after he said in his initial remarks after his release by PKK terrorists that his kidnappers were “seven well-mannered youths.” He said the terrorists were “extremely respectful” with the manner in which they treated him. He said he believed he was kidnapped for the purposes of political propaganda.
In the meantime, Erdoğan said in an interview published by CNN International on Wednesday that the US is “lacking initiative” on Syria and suggested that could be because of the upcoming US election. “Maybe it's because of the elections -- maybe it's because of the pre-election situation in the States. That might be the root cause of the lack of initiative. Nobody has spoken to us about their reasons, and they are not obliged to state anything. We are very thankful and pleased they have stated that they're against this regime,” Erdoğan told CNN International through a translator.
When asked what he thought the biggest danger to Turkey was, Erdoğan spoke about weapons of mass destruction. “Well, the biggest danger, not only for Turkey but for the entire region and the world is ... the employment of weapons of mass destruction and chemical ones, of course. If the slightest suggestion of such an attempt should emerge, not only in Turkey, but the attitude of the entire globe is going to change forever,” he said.