Noisy US welcome as Erdogan defends hardline stance
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced noisy protests as he confronted critics in Washington, defending his media crackdown and accusing the West of turning a blind eye to Kurdish violence.
Washington: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced noisy protests as he confronted critics in Washington, defending his media crackdown and accusing the West of turning a blind eye to Kurdish violence.
As the Turkish leader flew in to the US capital ahead of a nuclear safety summit, news broke of another deadly bomb attack targeting police in his country's southeast, where his forces are battling Kurdish militants.
Against this backdrop his security detail was not amused to find a small group of protesters outside the Washington think tank where he was to speak, brandishing the banners of the YPG, a Kurdish militant group based in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as an affiliate of the PKK, Turkey's main Kurdish separatist movement, and has declared it a terrorist threat. Washington sees the YPG guerrillas as key allies in its campaign against the Islamic State group.
Just ahead of Erdogan's arrival at the Brookings Institute yesterday, Turkish security officials clashed with the crowd -- both sides exchanging insults and scuffling -- before Washington DC local police were able to separate them.
The Turkish guards also set about the press. One aimed a chest-high kick at an American reporter attempting to film the harassment of a Turkish opposition reporter, another called a female foreign policy scholar a "PKK whore."
Turkish security tried to prevent two Turkish journalists, one of them working for the opposition daily Zaman that has been seized by the government, from entering.
Brookings staff prevented Turkish officials from driving out the men, who had been invited to cover the event, amid tense scenes.
Meanwhile outside pro-Kurdish demonstrators chanted: "Erdogan, fascist" and "Erdogan, baby-killer."
But Erdogan appeared unruffled as he arrived to give a speech and answer questions, delivering a forceful address in which he ceded no ground to critics at home or abroad.
On the renewed battle with the Kurds, Erdogan was clear -- for Turkey, the PKK and the YPG are one and the same, vicious terrorists, and no better than the Islamic State group.
"Terrorists unfortunately keep attacking our country," he said. "We cannot tolerate this anymore. European countries and other countries, I hope they can see the true face of terrorists in these attacks."
Erdogan complained that, just because the YPG are fighting against the IS group with Western support, some see them as what he derisively termed "good terrorists" and complained that they have backers in Europe.
"I know people are organizing, funding meetings, and are assisting in getting arms to those organizations," he said.