Kurdish ministers quit Turkey govt over 'logic of war' against Kurdish rebels

Dilay Gundogan and Clare Byrne
1 / 3

Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Ali Haydar Konca (L) and Development Minister Muslum Dogan hold a press conference at HDP headquarters in Ankara on September 22, 2015

Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Ali Haydar Konca (L) and Development Minister Muslum Dogan hold a press conference at HDP headquarters in Ankara on September 22, 2015 (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

Ankara (AFP) - Two Kurdish ministers accused Turkey's government of promoting a "logic of war" as they quit the cabinet on Tuesday, two months after the resumption of fighting between the army and Kurdish rebels.

EU Affairs Minister Ali Haydar Konca and Development Minister Muslum Dogan said the state's two-month-old offensive against the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had created a "hellish" situation "especially in the Kurdish cities".

"A logic of war has been put into place," Konca, a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP), told a press conference, describing the climate in the country as worse than during the height of the conflict between the state and the rebels in the 1990s.

"Turkey has been plunged into a bloody vortex in which police, soldiers, guerrillas, women, children and the elderly have lost their lives", Konca said, accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party of preparing for war "on a larger scale."

NTV channel reported that the pair -- who have been vocal critics of the AKP -- walked out over a debate on terrorism during a cabinet meeting.

A statement from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office said he had accepted the resignations and that neither would be immediately replaced, NTV reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus condemned the departing ministers' criticism of the government and president as "unacceptable."

The resignations deal a further setback to the peace process between the state and PKK, which broke down in July after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an "anti-terrorism" campaign against the militants, shattering a two-year ceasefire.

Erdogan has repeatedly accused the HDP of being a front for the PKK, which is blamed for a string of bomb and shooting attacks that have killed dozens of soldiers and police in the majority Kurdish southeast in recent weeks.

The HDP insists it is has no formal links to the PKK but it is generally seen as defending Kurdish interests.

Konca and Dogan were brought into government after an inconclusive election in June, which led to the formation of a caretaker cabinet tasked with running the country until fresh elections on November 1.

The June vote dealt a blow to Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), which failed to win a governing majority for the first time in 13 years, dashing the president's hopes of pushing through constitutional reforms to boost his powers.

- Walking from 'war cabinet' -

The timing of Erdogan's campaign against the PKK, coming hot on the heels of the electoral wallop, has been viewed with suspicion by his critics, who accuse of reigning the conflict for political gain.

The HDP was the biggest winner of the June polls, taking seats from the AKP to win representation in parliament -- and later in government -- for the first time in the history of a pro-Kurdish party.

"The HDP thought taking the ministerial positions would enable them to keep a tight reign on the AKP when it comes to waging war," Dogu Ergil, an expert on Kurdish affairs who lectures at Istanbul's Fatih University, told AFP.

"But when the government didn't stop, they didn't want to be seen by their supporters as being a part of a 'war cabinet'," he added.

At a mass "antiterrorism" rally Sunday, Erdogan vowed to hunt down the PKK "to the terrorists' last redoubt" and suggested voters should punish the HDP at the ballot box for the PKK attacks.

But polls show the AKP still struggling to win back voters.

A survey by Gezici polling company published Monday showed support for the party slipping 1.6 points since June, dropping from 40.9 to 39.3 percent.

The resignation of the Kurdish ministers comes as the army continues airstrikes against PKK bases in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq which pro-government media say has killed over 1,000 rebels.

The military has also carried out ground operations aimed at flushing the PKK out of majority Kurdish cities.

The army's nine-day curfew of the city of Cizre earlier this month caused particular outrage among Kurds. The HDP claimed 23 civilians were killed in the operation. The government said up to 32 rebels died.

Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984 demanding an independent state for Kurds. Since then the group has narrowed its demands to greater autonomy and cultural rights.