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Erdogan calls on pro-Kurdish party to sever ties with PKK

The Turkish president warned the HDP to avoid playing politics if it wants to stay within the country's parliamentary system
Pro-Kurdish HDP supporters hold a picture of Abdullah Ocalan as they celebrate election results in Istanbul in June (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly urged the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to sever all ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

On Friday, the president argued that as the HDP is now a political party with 80 seats in the Turkish parliament, it must break with the PKK, which is considered as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU.

"An offshoot that attained representation at the parliament must do its best [to cut off relations with PKK] as they apparently maintain an indirect link, even if not a direct one, with the terrorist organisation," Erdogan told reporters before performing the Eid al-Fitr prayer at Istanbul's Atasehir Mimar Sinan Mosque.

The comments follow talks between Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and HDP leaders earlier this week as the AKP party, which is led by Erdogan and the prime minister, seeks to form a coalition following general elections in June. So far the AKP have not been able to garner a majority in parliament in order to form the next government.

Government officials and Erdogan have regularly accused the HDP of having ties with the group and acting and speaking like its political wing.

Erdogan said intelligence services had established that there were ties between the HDP and the PKK, which the former has categorically rejected. 

The Turkish president went on to argue that certain results in the 7 June parliamentary elections proved his point.

"The pro-Kurdish party swept the polls in hundreds of villages while other parties had zero percent vote," he said, referring to southeastern Turkey where there is an important Kurdish presence. "It means the local people there are threatened with guns."

HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas on Tuesday called on PKK to lay down its arms against Turkey, but warned that only negotiations with the government could ensure that the PKK would no longer pose a threat. "The PKK must absolutely lay down arms against Turkey," he said in an interview on broadcaster Habeturk.

The Turkish government launched a process of negotiations with the PKK in early 2013 to end the decades-old conflict, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people over 40 years.

Erdogan said that HDP should not attempt to play politics in the next stages of the process and should reject the backing of an illegal group if it truly believes in democracy and wants to stay within the parliamentary system.

During a live interview on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said the HDP’s alleged links to the PKK were a cause for concern and called for the pro-Kurdish party to loosen its ties to the group.