A Kurdish rebel leader said Sunday that Turkey has slipped into a civil war with the Kurds, as he urged the European Union and the United States to step up as peace brokers to end the conflict.
"Military tanks, artillery and helicopters are being deployed in the south of Turkey against the Kurdish civilian population. The situation is the worst in decades," Cemil Bayik, one of the leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
"The Turkish government say: this war will last until all Kurdish fighters surrender or are killed. Therefore I say that yes, we Kurds are once again in a civil war with Turkey," said Bayik, speaking at his group's stronghold of northern Iraq's Qandil mountains.
Bayik along with Murat Karayilan is considered the PKK's top commander on the ground in the absence of its jailed chief Abdullah Ocalan.
Southeast Turkey has been rocked by a new wave of unrest that has left several hundred people dead since a two-year-old truce between Ankara and the PKK fell apart in July.
The PKK tore up the unilateral ceasefire it had declared in 2013 after Turkey began waging a relentless campaign against the group in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.
"If the military act against the Kurdish civilian population, then we will defend the Kurds. That is our right and our responsibility," said Bayik.
At the same time, the PKK leader said he still believes in a political solution out of the crisis.
"We don't want to fight anymore. We want political solutions. For that we need a peace broker, a third party," he said.
"Therefore we are asking the United States or Germany as part of the EU, to take on this task."
Both the US and the EU have put the PKK on their list of terror organisations.
But Bayik said it was time to review that listing, as he underlined the role that his group has played in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.
"Since we began battling IS on several fronts and freed many people, the people in Europe have begun to understand the real nature of the PKK," he said.
"The time has come to finally remove PKK from the terror list."