Turkey’s army chief has warned that the army will do whatever is necessary if its “red lines” are not respected in peace talks with Kurdish rebels.
His comments came amid intensified efforts by the government to restart stalled peace talks with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which launched an insurgency seeking self-rule in the southeast in 1984.
“We have made clear that we will do and say whatever necessary if our red lines have been crossed…” Turkish armed forces chief of staff Necdet Ozel said late Saturday, adding that these included “territorial integrity.”
“We have been fighting this struggle for 30 years,” he added during a reception hosted by newly inaugurated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Cankaya presidential palace for Victory Day, a national holiday marking the final battle in the Turkish War of Independence.
Erdogan launched clandestine peace talks with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012 to end a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives over three decades. The military were not included in these talks.
The rebels declared a ceasefire in March 2013, but peace talks stalled in September after the insurgents said they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil in protest against Ankara’s failure to move on reforms.
Although hostilities have largely died down, sporadic violence has erupted in the Kurdish-majority southeast.
Ankara is now seeking to restart peace talks with the PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.
The newly-formed government is expected to present a road map in September.
Ozel however lamented that the government had not yet shared the road map for the peace talks with the army, saying they were only following the developments through the “media.”
“The government has a policy and it is pursuing it, but we don’t know anything about their road map. We are not involved in it. Wish they had asked for our opinion,” he said.
In a speech Thursday after his inauguration, Erdogan vowed to advance the peace process, saying it was his “priority.”
Ocalan said earlier this month that Turkey was on the verge of “historic developments” and that the conflict was “coming to an end.”
The parliament has already passed a reform bill aimed at easing the negotiating process with the Kurds.