US axes PKK drone spying for Turkey
The US has reportedly axed a clandestine intelligence programme with Turkey that has helped Turkish commanders target the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The previously secret programme was scrapped in response to Nato-member Turkey’s incursion into Syria in October, anonymous US sources said.
“This makes the anti-PKK campaign more difficult and more costly for Turkey,” a US source purportedly told Reuters.
In late 2019 the US stopped flying the intelligence-collection missions that targeted the Kurdish separatist movement, which the US, European Union and Turkey classify as a terrorist organisation.
Drones were deployed since 2007 from Turkey’s Incirlik airbase, from several US spy agencies operated, according to one US source.
They could monitor the mountains along the Iraqi border, another US source said.
A Turkish official confirmed the programme had stopped.
“In recent years, Turkey has not been struggling to obtain the information it needs through drones it produces itself,” a source in Ankara said. “However, as an ally, the steps taken on this issue do not contribute to ties between the two countries.”
The US last year expelled Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet programme after Ankara bought Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. Washington said it feared Moscow would use the S-400 technology to probe the F-35 for weaknesses.
Turkey has also criticised the European Parliament for holding an event attended by Kurdish separatist PKK leaders.
“The unofficial event, which also ignores the principle of fighting terrorist organisations without discrimination,” stated Turkey’s foreign ministry.
“We invite EU institutions and EU member states to stand firm against terrorist organisations and no longer take terrorists under its wing,” the ministry said.
Ibrahim Kalin, a Turkish presidential spokesman, tweeted: “It is an embarrassing scandal that a blind eye was turned to the open spreading of terrorist propaganda and Turkey and President Erdogan were insulted at [the European Union, Turkey, the Middle East and the Kurds] conference organised by the European Parliament.”
“[By] opening its doors to the PKK, which the European Union has recognised as a terrorist organisation, the European Parliament openly supports terrorism and commits an offence,” Kalin tweeted.
“We strongly condemn this scandal. Those who ensure that blood-shedding terrorists hold talks under the roof of the European Parliament became part of the offence,” he added.
The Turkish media reported that Adem Uzun, Remzi Kartal and Zubeyir Aydar, who are in the red category of Turkey’s wanted terrorist list, attended the EU conference.
The PKK. Picture credit: Wikimedia