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Investigations launched after row between leading AKP politicians in Turkey

The Deputy Prime Minister and Mayor had been embroiled in a public spat
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (C) arrives to hold cabinet meeting at Cankaya Palace Ankara, on 23 March

Prosecutors launched an investigation on Tuesday into Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek following a row between the two over an intervention by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into the Kurdish peace process.

According to the Dogan news agency, Ankara public prosecutors accused Gokcek of embezzlement and misconduct and Arinc on charges of misconduct and covering up a felony.

It is not known whether the prosecution, who will have to get permission from the interior ministry to investigate Gokcek and apply to parliament to talk to Arinc, is linked to the row between the two politicians that began publicly over the weekend.

Tensions began to rise on Friday after Erdogan publicly opposed the creation of a committee to monitor peace talks between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish government, contradicting an announcement by deputy prime minister Yalcin Akdogan that such a committee would be created.

This earned Erdogan a rebuke from Arinc who said it was not “appropriate” for the president to intervene publicly on such a matter and that the comments undermined the government's position.

“We love our president, we know his power and are also aware of the services he will give, but please do not forget that there is a government in this country,” he said on Staurday.

This rebuke was in turn criticised by Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek who accused Arinc of a being an agent of the “parallel state” - an alleged conspiracy by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to undermine the AKP - and called for his resignation.

“I always wondered from where they would hit us,” said Gokcek on Twitter, insinuating that Arinc was a Gulen agent.

In a series of tweets that followed he added: 

“I should confess that I didn't expect one [a hit] like this. They wanted to target us from inside. And they gave this hit with Bulent Arınc. Everyone thought that he made the statement on behalf of the government. More precisely, they wanted to create such a perception and they succeeded in doing so. However, I know the Cabinet ministers are highly disturbed about this issue.”

The battle continued with Arinc only a few hours later counter-accusing Gokcek of being a Gulen-supporter and selling “Ankara to this structure plot-by-plot”.

Erdogan also criticised Arinc on Monday claiming in a speech that it was his “right and duty” to voice his opinion about a process that had been initiated under his administration.

AKP divisions

The tit-for-tat accusations mark a nadir within the AKP, who have ruled Turkey since 2002 and have seen the country evolve into one of the high-growth leader on the world stage.

But the perceived creeping authoritarianism of president and former Prime Minister Erdogan and the stalling of the Kurdish peace process has led to a rise in tensions.

On Sunday, Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) - a pro-Kurdish political party with links to the PKK – announced that he was waiting to see where the current AKP spat would lead with regards to the peace process.

“We are particularly curious about the stance of the prime minister as the head of the cabinet. We would like to see on which side of this debate he stands as the cabinet’s head,” Demirtas told reporters.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has so far remained silent on the conflict.

'Identity wars'

The PKK has been involved in a decades-long guerrilla conflict with the Turkish state which has cost over 40,000 lives on both sides.

Although previous Turkish administrations took a hard line on Kurdish self-determination – with accusations of genocide over the indiscriminate destruction of Kurdish villages – the AKP government entered into peace discussions with the group which has led to numerous ceasefires and an overall reduction in hostilities.

While thousands of Kurds in the southeast city of Diyarbakir – in the area referred to as Turkish Kurdistan – celebrated Newroz, the Persian and Kurdish New Year, a message from the PKK's imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan was read out in which he called for an end to the PKK's armed conflict.

“The crisis caused by neoliberal policies imposed on the whole world by imperialist capitalism and its despotic local collaborators is affecting our region and country,” said the statement.

“In this environment of crisis, ethnic and religious variations among our people and within our cultures are being erased by meaningless and brutal identity wars."

He described ending the armed struggle as a “historically necessary”.

“The day has come to terminate this brutal and disastrous assault, and to change over to the fraternity and democracy befitting our past,” he said.

“In my belief, it is necessary to facilitate open democratic identities in order to bring a democratic solution to the problem of confrontational, exhausting and disastrous nationalism on which nation states depend.”

Since being imprisoned in 1999, Ocalan has called for a shift away from Kurdish nationalism and the Marxist-Leninism that the PKK previously advocated in favour of what he termed “Democratic Confederalism”.

The PKK and its affiliates have been involved in fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq and have accused Turkey of either directly or indirectly backing IS.

Turkey's unwillingness to intervene to aid Kurds against IS in the Syrian town of Kobane led to large-scale streets protests in which at least 12 people were killed, allegedly in attacks by the security services, far-right groups and IS sympathisers.

The authorities, however, blamed the protesters for escalating the situation.

Efkan Ala, the interior minister, accused the pro-Kurdish protesters of "betraying their own country" and warned them to disperse or face "unpredictable" consequences.

"Violence will be met with violence... This irrational attitude should immediately be abandoned and [the protesters] should withdraw from the streets," he told reporters in Ankara in October last year.