Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to continue operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, saying there remains no room for peace talks with the militant group.
Erdogan said in a speech in the capital, Ankara, on Monday that PKK militants should either surrender or they will be “neutralized” by Turkish security forces.
The PKK abandoned a ceasefire with Ankara in July 2015, about two years after it was clinched between both sides to end a conflict that has killed 40,000 people since 1984.
Turkey has been involved in a large-scale campaign against the PKK since last July in the country’s southern border region. It has also been conducting offensives against the positions of the group in northern Iraq.
According to government figures, some 400 Turkish soldiers and police officers were killed in the operations. Opposition political parties say between 500 and 1,000 civilians were also killed.
Erdogan condemns West
Erdogan also condemned the West for teaching Ankara “lessons in democracy” after the United States and the European Union criticized the country’s crackdown on freedom of expression.
"Those who attempt to give us lessons in democracy and human rights must first contemplate their own shame," the president said.
This came after US President Barack Obama said during a news conference at the end of a nuclear security summit in Washington on April 1 that the approach Turkish authorities have been taking toward the press could lead the country down a troubling path.
Obama also said he had openly spoken with Erdogan about "very troubling" developments in Turkey, especially in regard to freedom of the press, religion and democracy.
On Sunday, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz also said the bloc should hold discussions with Ankara over freedom of expression and human rights issues.
Last month, Turkey summoned Germany’s ambassador over a satirical music video broadcast by a German channel that lampooned Erdogan.
Erdogan further predicted that Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan would one day regain control of the border region of Karabakh, as clashes continue between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed area.
"We are today standing side-by-side with our brothers in Azerbaijan. But this persecution will not continue forever. Karabakh will one day return to its original owner. It will be Azerbaijan's," Erdogan said.
The president had earlier pledged to support Baku in the fighting “to the end,” saying, “We pray our Azerbaijani brothers will prevail in these clashes.”
The Karabakh region, which is located in the Azerbaijan Republic but is mainly populated by Armenians, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian militia and the Armenian troops since a three-year war, which claimed over 30,000 lives, ended between the two republics in 1994 through Russian mediation.
Armenia and Turkey have no diplomatic relations over alleged mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which Yerevan regards as genocide. Turkey rejects the claim.