Kurds say Europe turning "blind eye" to Turkish rights violations

The European Union's desire to strike a deal with the Turkish government on stemming migration flows has led the bloc to turn a "blind eye" to Turkish human rights abuses, the leader of the country's main pro-Kurdish party said in an interview Wednesday.

"To us, it seems that they turned a blind eye on the human rights violations by the Turkish government, in order to reach an agreement with Turkey on the migration issue," Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) told dpa.

He was commenting amid a serious uptick in violence in Turkey's mostly Kurdish south-east that has drawn criticism from human rights groups.

The migration deal, reached in November, is meant to see Europe give some 3 billion euros (3.2 billion dollars) to Turkey to help the country host Syrian refugees.

The country, a major gateway point for migrants trying to reach Europe, has registered some 2.5 million Syrians fleeing the civil war. Many have, in the last year, traveled onward to Europe.

The HDP is a key opposition group to the governing Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian after more than 12 years in power.

Demirtas, who was attending a conference on the Kurdish people in Brussels, warned that democratic reforms were in the process of being reversed in the country.

Demirtas' main constituency, the mostly Kurdish provinces in the south-east, has seen intense violence during the past six months as militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) clash with the state's security forces after the collapse of a two-year ceasefire.

The government has pledged to carry on with its military operations until the group is defeated and says it will never again negotiate with the PKK.

Demirtas decried a "serious silence" from the EU and urged Germany's leadership to push for renewed peace talks, noting Berlin's close ties to Ankara and influence within the bloc.

"While the war in Turkey is worsening significantly, it's not enough that Germany only makes a half-hearted ceasefire call," Demirtas said.

"The German chancellor or German president must themselves, every day, make a call to return to the solution process," he added.

According to Demirtas, pressure to end the violence is "compatible" with European efforts to reach a sustainable migration policy.

Europe saw more than 1 million migrants land on its shores last year.

EU officials visited Turkey this week and pledged the money would soon be released to help Syrians and also called for an "immediate ceasefire" in the south-east.

The leader of the HDP was, however, pessimistic about the peace process being restarted in the next months. He warned that there could not be progress without his party and the PKK being part of the talks.

The HDP says 192 civilians have been killed in the latest round of violence.

Last update: Wed, 27/01/2016 - 17:29
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