In Multipolarity, Russia, Turkey / Türkiye

By Alex MacDonald, Middle East Eye, Dec 21, 2015  (and two other news articles further below)

Report says HDP delegation will include leader of Syrian Kurdish PYD party

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey

The co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) in Turkey is to visit Russia, reportedly in an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries.

Selahattin Demirtas will arrive in Moscow tomorrow. He will be the first high-profile Turkish political figure to visit Russia since the shooting down of a Russian jet last month led to the worst breakdown in relations between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.

Nazmi Gur, the HDP’s vice co-chairman for foreign affairs and a member of the Moscow delegation, said that the trip was aimed at repairing Turkey’s image on the international scene. “[Prime Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu, when he served as minister for foreign affairs, declared a new policy of ‘zero problems with neighbours’,” he told Middle East Eye. “But now after this crisis with Russia, Turkey has no neighbours anymore. They have a crisis with almost every neighbour.”

He said that the issues covered on Wednesday would include, “a possible solution for Syria and the role of the Kurds in a future democratic Syria”.

Moscow imposed sanctions on Turkey following the shooting down of the plane on 24 November. One pilot was killed by Turkmen militiamen allied to Turkey.

Turkey has not responded in kind as a result of its dependence on Russian oil and gas, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly rebuked Russia in public.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in early December on the sidelines of an international gathering in Belgrade in the first high-level contact since the incident, but tensions have remained high.

Demirtas’ trip, which has not been organised in coordination with the Turkish government, is likely to provoke criticism from the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) and its allies in the media.

“The AKP’s media is not a real media, it is a tool that they are using against Turkish democracy and public opinion,” Gur said. “They have done this every day but we know what we can do and we will be of course very positive and this trip may help ease the Turkish-Russian crisis, because the Turkish economy, tourism and many other sectors got terribly affected by this crisis.”

“We respect all the state’s opinions, but as a political party we also have the right to get in contact with all countries. We have great relations with the EU and United States, so why not with Russia, China or Iran?”

The HDP rose to prominence in June after it managed to pass Turkey’s electoral threshold [ten per cent] and enter parliament for the first time, on an inclusive platform that attempted to move it away from its image as an exclusively Kurdish political party. [The party won 13 per cent of the vote in the June election.]

The HDP has been noted for its socially liberal platform, which included a commitment to women’s equality, ethnic pluralism and homosexual and transexual rights.

However, Gur said that it did not expect to raise human rights issues while in Russia, which has been notorious in recent years for a crackdown on LGBT rights under a new law prohibiting LGBT “propaganda”.

“We have our own agenda and mostly we’re going to discuss the Middle East and Syria and the role of the Kurds in Syria,” he said.

HDP co-chair heads to Moscow for talks on regional issues

News report on Hurriyet Daily News, Dec 22, 2015

ISTANBUL – Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas departed on Dec. 22 for a five-day visit to the Russian capital city of Moscow where he is expected to hold talks on regional conflicts, with a particular focus on the battle against jihadists in Rojava, the Kurdish region in the northern part of Syria.

Demirtas will be accompanied during the visit by Nazmi Gür, the deputy co-leader of the HDP in charge of external affairs, the party’s press office announced Dec. 21. The delegation will meet with Russia government officials, members of the Russian Parliament, political parties, civil society organizations and media outlets, the HDP said, without elaborating.

Citing a report by Russian daily Kommersant, Kurdish news portal Rujaw reported that Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-Chair Salih Muslim would also travel to Moscow.

Demirtas will pay a visit to the Foreign Ministry while in Moscow. He and Salih Muslim will be seeking support from Russia for solution to the Kurdish problems, Rujaw reported, quoting Kommersant.

The Turkish government has constantly criticized the HDP for remaining silent over the cruelty by the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, while the HDP has accused the government of inaction toward Syrian Kurds besieged by jihadists in the Syrian border town of Kobane.

Turkish caliph

The row is not limited to the government or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also being frequently becoming involved in exchanging harsh words with HDP executives.

On Dec. 21, while speaking at a party convention in Izmir, Demirtas suggested the people around Erdogan were encouraging him to make him believe he could be the caliph.

Criticizing the government for over-centralizing power, particularly in local administrations, Demirtas said his party would distribute the majority of power if  to government.

“What did they do, they collected every authority. They want ‘one-man’ rule. Some people have pumped him up, saying you can be ‘caliph,’ and he believed this, he bought it,” Demirtas said, arguing the newly built presidential palace was also a result of such an illusion.

“He [Erdogan] said ‘Since I will be the sultan and the caliph, I need a palace,’” Demirtas said.

HDP’s Demirtaş to meet Russian foreign minister Lavrov in Moscow

Published in Today’s Zaman, Saturday, Dec 20, 2015

“Barring any last-minute obstacles, we will have a meeting in Moscow with Lavrov on Thursday,” Demirtaş said in a televised interview Saturday evening. He said he will also open a HDP office in the Russian capital on the same day.

The planned visit comes amid a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Russia, which erupted when Turkish jet fighters downed a Russian Su-24 near the border with Syria after it violated Turkish airspace. Russia denies the downed aircraft did in fact violate it and vowed to retaliate.

A meeting between Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, that was held after the downing of the Russian jet has produced little progress in easing tensions. A summit that was to be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this month after the jet incident has been canceled.

Putin made clear on Saturday, as well, that ties with Ankara will not improve under the current Turkish leadership, although he said Russia wanted to maintain good relations with the Turkish people. “I want to repeat it now: we consider the Turkish people a friendly nation, and we do not want to disrupt relations namely with the Turkish people,” Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying in a new documentary that was to be released on Sunday.

As for the current Turkish leadership, “nothing is eternal,” Putin said.

Demirtaş criticized the Turkish government for not taking measures to address problems faced by Turkish nationals living, studying or working in Russia, fallout from the diplomatic crisis between the two governments.

“Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people who do business with Russia, study there or work there are affected. We want to use our power to help solve these problems,” he said.

Criticizing the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) policies, which he said kept producing crises in foreign policy, Demirtaş said the HDP office in Moscow would help solve problems faced by anyone with a Turkish passport.

Read also:
Turkey descends into civil war as left-wing Turkish leaders arrive in Moscow, by Andre Ivanov, Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press), Dec 21, 2015, translated from Russian by Kristina Rus in Fort Russ


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