Immediate ceasefire needed in south-east Turkey to avoid more civilian victims, say S&Ds

Immediate ceasefire needed in south-east Turkey to avoid more civilian victims, say S&Ds, Knut Fleckenstein, Kati Piri MEP, Richard Howitt MEP, the Party of European Socialists (PES) led by PES vice-president Jan Royall, Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of

A fact-finding delegation from the Socialists and Democrats Group (S&Ds) in the European Parliament visited Diyarbakir in the south east of Turkey on Friday (19 February), two days after the Ankara terrorist attack. The S&D delegation was led by S&D Group vice-president Knut Fleckenstein MEP and included Kati Piri MEP, the European Parliament's lead negotiator on Turkey, and Richard Howitt MEP, the S&D Group's co-ordinator for foreign affairs and member of the EU-Turkey joint parliamentary committee. The S&D Group MEPs were also joined by a five-member delegation from the Party of European Socialists (PES) led by PES vice-president Jan Royall.

S&D vice-president for foreign affairs, neighbourhood policy and enlargement, Knut Fleckenstein MEP, said:

"On behalf of the S&D Group I would firstly like to extend my condolences to the families of the victims killed in the Ankara terrorist attack and elsewhere, and wish a speedy recovery to those injured. We agree strongly with the approach of Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of the HDP, pushing for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

"Secondly, I want to underline that an immediate ceasefire is needed between the Turkish security forces and the PKK to avoid further innocent victims among those trapped in the warzone who have no part in the fighting. I would also like to extend our condolences to the families of those victims we met during our visit. Once a ceasefire is agreed, both sides must come back to the negotiating table."

S&D MEP and the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, Kati Piri, said:

"The PKK must lay down its arms immediately and exert its influence to ensure the youth militias in the cities do the same. The return to violence is causing the deaths of many innocent Kurds and Turks, and has pushed the country to the brink of a civil war.

"While conducting security operations, the Turkish armed forces must adhere to human rights standards and refrain from collective punishment against the local population in south-east Turkey. The massacre that took place in Cizre must be thoroughly investigated and prevented from ever happening again. In this regard, I very much welcome that the governor of Diyarbakir allowed six civilians to safely leave the zones under curfew. We hope this action will be repeated for many more of the people, including babies, who are still trapped inside.

"It is crucial that a ceasefire is agreed upon and the peace talks resumed. There is no military solution to the Kurdish question."

Richard Howitt MEP, S&D Group foreign affairs co-ordinator and member of the EU-Turkey joint parliamentary committee, added:

"To overcome the huge mistrust and lack of communication between local Kurdish politicians and the Turkish government, we pressed for an agreement for the Red Crescent or a similar independent humanitarian agency to be brought in to monitor and accompany the evacuation of civilians from the conflict zone.

"If local ceasefires have been possible in Syria to enable humanitarian access, then it must be possible to achieve this in south-east Turkey too."