Turkey's Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar has warned allies at a critical NATO meeting that the “PKK terrorist organisation is a threat for regional security,” as he hosts the NATO Chiefs of Defence for the Military Committee Conference in Istanbul being held from Sept. 11 tp 13.
Akar stated, “The PKK has been exploiting current conditions in Syria and Iraq in order to gain a legitimacy in the eyes of international community. But at the same time they will keep killing old or young, women or men, organising brutal attacks, and taking lives of innocent people.”
The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, NATO, the US, and EU.
Akar links Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) activities with PKK “exploitation” in Syria. Turkey considers the PYD as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK.
In November 2013, the PYD declared three autonomous areas or “cantons” - Afrin, Jazira and Kobane - from west to the east in northern Syria following the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas.
In addition, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the PYD, captured Tel Abyad from ISIS on June 15 and was able to join the Kobane and Jazira “cantons,” allowing it to control most of Syria’s Turkish border.
The PYD expansion at the expense of ISIS has been supported by US-led air strikes until now.
Turkey aims to keep the expansion of the PYD in check and has previously declared that Turkey will consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the PYD as a violation of a "red line” which was set by a recent National Security Council meeting in late June.
Moreover, Turkey has recently been facing with a renewed wave of PKK attacks in its southeastern and eastern regions following the Suruc suicide bombing in its southeastern Sanliurfa province, widely thought to have been carried out by ISIS on July 20.
More than one hundred Turkish security officials have been killed in militant attacks by the PKK and ISIS since the bombing.
Akar said, “We have come together at the right time and place,” referring to the Istanbul meeting of NATO’s Military Committee which is the highest military authority of the Atlantic alliance.
The top Turkish general drew attention to the fact that Turkey is the only NATO member which neighbours three crises in its surrounding geography.
“I mean the crises of Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine. These threats emerging in the southern and eastern wings of NATO affect not only the aforementioned region but also setting of global security. Therefore, it is the right time to debate on how NATO could assume the security of the alliance in this environment,” he said.
Akar also described the Syrian civil war as the greatest human-made disaster to afflict the planet since World War II.
He said “preventive measures have not been taken” concerning the severe clashes in the country, though many bilateral and multilateral meetings have been held aiming to find a concrete resolution to the Syrian conflict since 2011.
“The current Syrian crisis has reached a point which will affect the whole world. At the same time foreign fighters have attained a level at which they alarmingly threaten all of us with increasing seriousness,” Akar continued.
“Particularly, ISIS is a direct threat to the respective region and global stability as the most barbaric terrorist group ever to exist. Its activities have taken place at the Turkish border and sincerely threaten the security of NATO.”
He also stated that Turkey is commited in its consistent fight against ISIS alongside the US-led international coalition against the group.
The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, emphasised that Turkey is an unshakably permanent member of the alliance.
Pavel said, “Turkey has participated in NATO’s operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and overseas, indicating that it has devoted itself to the principles of the alliance to its upmost,” speaking at the meeting.
The meeting chaired by Pavel will concentrate “on the implementation and progress of the Readiness Action Plan, regional security and its challenges, NATO’s current Mission in Afghanistan - RESOLUTE SUPPORT, and the Western Balkans,” according to NATO’s official website.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg said in May that Turkey volunteered to be a leading country along with six other nations in forming the alliance’s “spearhead unit,” known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), for 2021 following Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s offer to assume responsibility for the unit.
The VJTF or “spearhead force” was created by the allies as a part of NATO’s Readiness Action Plan at the Wales Summit in 2014.
Turkey became a NATO member in 1952, during the course of the Cold War, in order to counter the threat posed by the communist Soviet Union.