“Now, Bashar al-Assad is acting on the idea that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend.’ It is crystal clear that he is taking the PKK under his wing and using it against Turkey,” Hüseyin Çelik said on Wednesday at a press conference following a meeting of the AK Party’s Central Executive Board (MYK).
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US, has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the decades-long conflict to date. The terrorist group has recently stepped up its campaign of violence in Turkey, killing ten civilians last week in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.
Turkey has been claiming that the Syrian administration is aiding the PKK in response to Ankara’s strong criticism of the Assad regime over its brutal crackdown on opponents. A senior AK Party official said earlier this month that Ankara has reliable intelligence that the Syrian military intentionally left heavy weapons for the PKK when it abandoned areas in northern Syria.
Turkish officials say they are watching closely for signs Syria may renew its support for the PKK, which dropped in late 1998 after Turkish tanks massed on the Syrian border. Damascus was forced to deport PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan who was later captured in Kenya on Feb. 15, 1999, while going from the Greek Embassy to the Nairobi International Airport, in an operation carried out by the National Intelligence Organization (M?T) in Kenya.
During the press conference, Çelik was also asked about a much-debated camp, which is housing Syrian refugees in the southern Turkish province of Hatay and has so far remained closed to the media. The camp, which is located in the Apayd?n village of Hatay, houses dozens of defected Syrian army officers and their families. The government has been recently criticized by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which repeatedly asked the government why its deputies have been denied entry into the camp, questioning whether the refugees were being secretly provided with military training in the camp.
“There is no military training there. Turkey is not involved in any secret activity there,” Çelik said.