Turkey Kurdish leader on surprise trip to Brussels ‘to meet PKK representatives’

Friday 31/07/2015
Demirtas called for return to negotiating table

ANKARA - The co-chair of Turkey's main Kurdish party is to make an unscheduled trip to Brussels on Wednesday, his party said, amid reports he will meet representatives of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Selahattin Demirtas of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) postponed his scheduled programme in Ankara Wednesday, a party official said, adding: "He is due to travel to Brussels."

The official did not provide details about Demirtas's itinerary. But Turkish media reports said he would meet Kurdish separatist representatives including Zubeyir Aydar, a leading figure in the PKK who is based in Brussels.

Aydar, among the top figures coordinating lobbying for the PKK in Europe, is an executive committee member of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) which is seen as part of the PKK.

The PKK, designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the United States, took up arms for self-rule in the southeast in 1984 in a conflict which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The visit comes amid a spike in unrest between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants, which has left a 2013 ceasefire in tatters. Turkey's warplanes have pounded militant bases in northern Iraq.

In recent weeks, Demirtas called on the Ankara government and Kurdish rebels to declare mutual ceasefire and return to the negotiating table.

In an interview last week, Demirtas said the "weapons must be silenced" by both sides immediately so that conditions can be created for a return to talks.

Demirtas's HDP won a breakthrough in the June election, securing 80 seats in the Turkish parliament and wrecking President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to create a powerful presidential system.