Erdogan accuses Europe of 'surrendering to terror'

18th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused Europe of "surrendering to terror" for allowing displays of support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), days after a bombing in Ankara claimed by Kurdish rebels.

Speaking five days after the suicide car bombing that killed 35 people, Erdogan accused European countries of appeasing terrorist groups and leaving themselves open to attack.

"Despite this clear reality, European countries are paying no attention, as if dancing in a minefield," he charged.

Erdogan's swipe came as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu finalised a plan with EU leaders to curb the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

Erdogan blasted several EU states for having taken in only a "handful" of refugees, compared to the nearly three million people sheltering on Turkish soil, mostly Syrians.

He also took aim at Belgium for allowing Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) sympathisers to erect a tent outside the EU building in Brussels where the summit on migration was held.

"Be honest," Erdogan said at a ceremony in the western city of Canakkale to commemorate the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli. "This means surrendering to terror. They have surrendered to terror."

Reacting to the tirade, the Belgian embassy in Ankara said Brussels was "determined to fight terrorism" while upholding basic freedoms.

Erdogan has come under fire in recent days, including in Belgium, for calling for the definition of terrorism to be expanded to include journalists, activists and others who "exploit their positions, pens and titles and put them at terrorists' disposal."

As part of a growing crackdown on free speech, several Turkish lawyers and academics have been arrested for criticising the military's heavy-handed tactics in Kurdish towns and cities in the southeast.

Erdogan has also pushed for lawmakers from a pro-Kurdish party to be stripped of their parliamentary immunity so they can be prosecuted for "terrorist propaganda".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week she would take up the issue of press freedom "and the treatment of the Kurds" with Ankara.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel also expressed concern over Turkey's rights record and the renewed conflict with the PKK.

- Kurdish New Year fears -

Erdogan said Europe, where the PKK -- branded a terror group by Ankara and the West -- has considerable support among Kurds was "feeding a snake in its bosom."

Turkey is on a knife-edge after five major bombings since July that have killed over 200 people. Three have been blamed on the Islamic State group.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical Kurdish group with ties to the PKK, has claimed responsibility for two others, including Sunday's suicide car bombing in a busy transport hub in Ankara that killed 35 people.

The German embassy in Ankara, German consulate in Istanbul and German schools in both cities remained closed for a second day Friday following what Berlin called "very serious" indications of planned attacks, two months after 12 German tourists were killed in a suicide attack in Istanbul.

The US embassy in Ankara also issued a warning to its citizens in Turkey to exercise caution ahead of Kurdish New Year celebrations at the weekend that have been a flashpoint for demonstrations in the past. Public gatherings have been banned in some cities during the holidays.

On Thursday, an explosives-laden car was found parked outside a government building in the Hani district of Diyarbakir province in the mainly Kurdish southeast, security sources said

The vehicle was defused by police bomb disposal experts.

The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 to demand autonomy for the Kurdish minority.

The conflict, which resumed last summer after a two-year ceasefire collapsed, has claimed some 40,000 lives.

© 2016 AFP

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