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Turkey denounces French politicians attending protest over killing of Kurds

Turkey's foreign minister slammed politicians for attending demonstration where some waved flags of outlawed PKK
PKK flag in Paris
Angry protesters next to a van bearing Turkish colours during a demonstration of supporters and members of the Kurdish community, a day after a gunman killed three Kurds at a cultural centre, on December 24, 2022 (AFP)

Turkey on Thursday denounced French politicians for attending a Paris protest over the killing of three Kurds, where demonstrators waved flags of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The protests on Saturday, which started peacefully, descended into violence. Footage from the demonstrations showed protesters throwing projectiles at police who responded by firing tear gas. Streets in central Paris were littered with broken glass and cars flipped over.  

Some protesters carried flags of the PKK, labelled a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, and posters of its jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

In a call with his French counterpart, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu complained about the gathering, and what he called “anti-Turkish propaganda”, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

"Minister Cavusoglu... stressed that it is unacceptable that French politicians attended events (protests) in which flags of the terrorist organisation PKK and posters of its leader were waved. He said France should not allow such activities," the ministry said.

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More than 150,000 Kurds live in France and they have complained about being victims of violence. In the latest incident, a gunman, who called himself a racist, killed three Kurds in an attack that targeted a Kurdish cultural centre and a hairdressing salon. 

The Kurdish issue has also been a source of tension between Turkey and France.

One particularly thorny subject is the unresolved 2013 murder of three activists who belonged to the PKK, an armed group which has waged a four-decade guerilla campaign against the Turkish state for greater autonomy for Kurdish areas of southeastern Turkey. The victims' families accused Turkish spies of ordering the hit.

The only suspect who was due to go on trial died in December 2016 from brain cancer, but a French judicial investigation into the killings continues.

French President Emmanuel Macron has clashed with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over hotspots including Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean, though tensions have cooled recently.

In April last year, four men of Kurdish origin were beaten with iron bars in a Kurdish cultural association in Lyon, eastern France, in an attack blamed on the ultra-nationalist Turkish Grey Wolves group that was later banned.

Analysts warn, however, that after last week's clashes between police and demonstrators, French public support for the Kurds could diminish.

Turkey is threatening a new invasion into northeast Syria to target Kurdish militants it blames for a November bombing in Istanbul. Kurdish groups have denied responsibility. 

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