Turkish forces seek to free kidnapped lawmaker

Updated 14 August 2012

Turkish forces seek to free kidnapped lawmaker

DIYARBAKIR: Turkish security forces launched yesterday an operation seeking to free an ethnic Kurdish lawmaker kidnapped by Kurdish rebels in the east of the country.
Huseyin Aygun from the Republican People's Party (CHP) in the southeastern city of Tunceli was abducted Sunday after his car was stopped by the rebels on the highway, security sources told AFP.
The captors let Aygun's assistant and a journalist accompanying them leave as they took Aygun and disappeared into the woods nearby, Tunceli governor Mustafa Taskesen told reporters, citing witnesses.
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels confirmed in a statement they were holding the lawmaker and warned Turkey to abandon its rescue operation. “The lawmaker Huseyin Aygun has been detained by our fighters,” rebels said in a statement given to the pro-Kurd news agency Firatnews.
“An operation has been launched which puts the life of the lawmaker in danger,” the PKK said.
It marked the first time since PKK rebels began their battle for autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984 that they have abducted a member of the Turkish Parliament.
According to Aygun's aides, the PKK have promised to free the lawmaker “in a few days” without threatening his life, apparently seeing the abduction as a way of attracting public opinion to the Kurdish cause. Turkey's Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the PKK wanted to create a “sensation” in capturing the lawmaker before the anniversary on Aug. 15 of the rebels' first armed operations 28 years ago, the Anatolia news agency reported.
“We are following this affair very closely,” he added.
Augun, 42, has in the past called on the PKK to abandon their violent campaign.
His kidnapping follows the abduction of three soldiers last week, and the search continues to find the troops.
Kurdish rebels frequently kidnap workers, soldiers and local authorities to bargain for the release of captured rebels. Those who have not been found by Turkish forces are reportedly held captive in hideouts across Turkey's border with Iraq.
Last Sunday, rebels stormed a Turkish army post on the Iraq border, triggering fighting that killed 22 people in the latest clash since Ankara unleashed a major offensive against the insurgents.
A series of similar assaults against troops in the Kurdish-majority southeast prompted the army to launch an all-out offensive against PKK bases in the area last month.
At least 115 rebels have been killed since the offensive began on July 23, Turkish authorities said.
The conflict with the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, has claimed some 45,000 lives over nearly three decades.

Erdogan’s ‘hypocrisy’ over Israel’s land grab in Palestine

Updated 15 min 51 sec ago

Erdogan’s ‘hypocrisy’ over Israel’s land grab in Palestine

  • Turkey is in controversial talks with Israel over mutually beneficial maritime borders in the Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan risked accusations of hypocrisy on Monday as he repeated his denunciations of Israel’s occupation and annexations in Palestine while allowing the Israeli airline El Al to resume cargo flights between Tel Aviv and Istanbul.

The first such flight in 10 years landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment for US medical teams fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

As the plane touched down, Erdogan was sending a message to US Muslims restating his support for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and his rejection of Israeli oppression.

“Last week we witnessed that a new occupation and annexation project, which disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law, was implemented by Israel,” he said.

“I would like to reiterate that Al-Quds Al-Sharif, the holy site of three religions and our first qiblah, is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”

Israel’s new unity government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz is expected to move forward soon with plans to annex swaths of the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

Meanwhile, as Arab News reported this month, Turkey is in controversial talks with Israel over mutually beneficial maritime borders in the Mediterranean. Erdogan is attempting a risky political balancing act, analysts told Arab News.

“I think Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because the political benefits of blockade and isolation have weakened,” said Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical risk company Stratfor.

“But at the same time, they do want to keep some of that tradition of sympathy for Palestine alive for those remaining supporters who still prize the issue.”