PKK leaders calls for 'resistance' in Turkey against Afrin invasion
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has called for "resistance" against the Turkish invasion of the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin, which is controlled by the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD).
In a statement released late on Sunday, the presidency of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) - a transnational body of which the PKK and PYD are part and which is run by the PKK leadership - said that "democratic forces" across the Middle East needed to oppose the Turkish operation, which began at the weekend.
"The Kurdish people in all parts of Kurdistan, particularly in North Kurdistan [southeast Turkey], and in diaspora should support the Afrin resistance," it read.
"All the peoples of Syria, particularly the Arab, Kurdish, Assyrian and Turkmen people living in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria should see the fact that this attack is against them, too, and should participate in the Afrin resistance."
The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, as well as by the US and the European Union, and more than 40,000 people have died during its conflict with Turkish security forces dating back to the 1980s.
The conflict heated up following the collapse of a two-year peace process in July 2015, with a splinter group of the PKK claiming responsibility for a series of deadly bombings in Diyarbakir, Ankara and Istanbul in 2016.
Turkish security forces also clashed with armed pro-PKK groups in the southeast of the country, where a majority of the population is Kurdish, with United Nations raising concerns about reports of hundreds of unlawful killings and widespread destruction of property and infrastructure.
Although much of the violence has since ended, tensions still remain high in southeastern Turkey.
The PKK blamed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has said it supports the campaign in Afrin, for pursuing an agenda against Kurdish aspirations in the region.
"There are two main reasons for these attacks. Firstly, the anti-Kurdish AKP-MHP fascist rule wants to destroy Kurdish people’s gains in Afrin," said the statement.
"Secondly, the AKP-MHP, which have come to the point of losing their power; so they try to shore up their fascist rule by carrying out this invasion operation."
Turkey on Saturday launched operation "Olive Branch" seeking to oust from the Afrin region of northern Syria the PYD and their military wing, the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terror group.
The PYD has long claimed independence from the PKK but military leaders of the group, which are based in northern Iraq, have been reported as working in senior roles in the PYD administration.
Turkey's Afrin campaign risks further increasing tensions with Turkey's NATO ally Washington, which has supported the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State and warned Ankara about distracting the focus from that fight.
In its first reaction to the offensive, the US State Department urged Turkey on Sunday "to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties".
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Ankara had given Washington advanced warning of its operation, adding that Turkey's security concerns were "legitimate".
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said troops crossed into YPG-controlled region in Syria at 0805 GMT, the Dogan news agency reported.