Aaron Stein writes: Members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) executed two police officers in Urfa on July 22, purportedly in retaliation for an Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) inspired suicide bombing of a leftist meeting in the border town of Suruç. In response, Turkey struck PKK bases in Iraqi Kurdistan and southeastern Turkey. This prompted a sharp increase in PKK-Turkish state violence, which has resulted in at least 113 Turkish security personnel deaths and hundreds of PKK fighters killed since July 20. The conflict has escalated in the past week, with the PKK killing thirty-nine Turkish soldiers and police and Ankara sanctioning a cross-border raid into Iraqi Kurdistan.
This violence marks the end of a two-year ceasefire between the PKK and Turkey, prompting both sides to use violence to force the other to return to peace talks. The PKK says it will return to the talks only after the government meets its demands to formalize the negotiations, including political autonomy inside Turkey and freedom for the group’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan. Ankara has said that it will continue striking PKK targets until the group withdraws from Turkish territory.
These events resemble PKK-Turkish clashes between 2009 and 2012, when the breakdown of peace talks resulted in at least 920 casualties, according to the International Crisis Group. However, the spillover from the Syrian conflict has altered the political dynamics that previously pushed the two parties to begin peace negotiations. [Continue reading…]