ANKARA (Web Desk) – Turkish fighter jets launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq overnight since air strikes began last week, a government official said, hours after President Tayyip Erdogan said a peace process had become impossible.
The F-16 jets hit six targets in Iraq and were scrambled from an air base in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations.
Meanwhile the leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party told the BBC that Turkey and the US are creating a “safe zone” in Syria in an attempt to stop Kurds from forming their own territory.
HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtas said Turkey’s operation against IS militants across the border was a cover to target PKK Kurdish rebels.
He urged both Turkey and the PKK to return to the peace process.
Ankara earlier said PKK attacks on Turkey made peace attempts impossible.
There has been a recent series of clashes between Turkish forces and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
Turkey has also been hit by attacks by IS-linked militants – including one that left 32 dead in the border town of Suruc last week.
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Turkey considers both the PKK and IS terrorist organisations.
Erdogan, however, said on Tuesday that the peace process had become impossible and urged parliament to strip politicians with links to the militants of immunity from prosecution, a move aimed squarely at the pro-Kurdish opposition.
Parliament is due to discuss the military operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as Erdogan’s call for the lifting of immunity, in a closed session later on Wednesday.
Erdogan initiated negotiations in 2012 to try to end a PKK insurgency, largely fought in the predominantly-Kurdish southeast, that has killed 40,000 people since 1984. A fragile ceasefire had been holding since March 2013.
Western allies have said they recognise Turkey’s right to self-defense but have urged the Nato member not to allow peace efforts with the PKK to collapse.
While deeming the PKK a terrorist organisation, Washington depends heavily on allied Syrian Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State in Syria.