No guarantee arms for Kurds won’t end up with PKK: experts
Sarah Dingle reported this story on Monday, September 1, 2014 12:14:00
ELEANOR HALL: One major concern about sending arms to the Kurdish government is that those arms could end up in the hands of the proscribed terrorist organisation the PKK.
The PKK has defeated Islamic State fighters on several occasions and Peshmerga generals are already facing accusations that they’re selling arms to the PKK.
Sarah Dingle has more.
SARAH DINGLE: The Kurdish Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, is a listed terror organisation in Australia.
PKK fighters have mounted an insurgency in Turkey for decades, demanding land for an independent Kurdistan.
But in more recent months the PKK has been fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq.
The University of Queensland’s Dr Tristan Dunning has just returned from lecturing in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.
TRISTAN DUNNING: But obviously their focus at the moment is not so much on Turkey, where there’s a peace process, at this stage they’re obviously looking more to defend Kurdish lives.
SARAH DINGLE: The PKK now shares a common enemy with the army of the Kurdish regional government, known as the Peshmerga, who are also battling Islamic State.
Australia is currently assisting with the delivery of weapons to the Peshmerga.
When asked if any of those weapons would end up in the hands of the PKK, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said there were always risks.
Dr Dunning says there have already been weapons transferred from the Peshmerga to the PKK in recent months, leading to an Islamic State victory in the city of Sinjar.
TRISTAN DUNNING: What’s happened in the past is that Peshmerga arms have actually ended up with the PKK.
So one of the reasons that I’ve heard that the collapse so quickly at Sinjar is actually because the Peshmerga generals in change of that Yezidi town had actually already sold the heavy weapons to the PKK for personal profit.
There’s several Peshmerga generals on trial at the moment for selling the weapons for profit.
So there’s absolutely no way that they could, within the fog of war especially, within such a corrupt environment, that they could guarantee that they won’t end up in PKK hands, and obviously Turkey would be quite upset if that happened.
SARAH DINGLE: That’s important because the PKK is currently in peace talks with the Turkish government.
Professor Greg Barton, the director international of the Global Terrorism Research Centre, says the negotiations are delicate.
But he says the PKK’s battles with Islamic State may induce Turkey to look more favourably on the PKK.
GREG BARTON: It’s possible that this may actually be the sort of thing that leads to some breakthrough on negotiations with the PKK and a resolution of what up until now has been irresolvable differences.
The Turkish government in Ankara has made good progress in working with Kurdish elements in the south east of Turkey generally speaking.
Of course, the exception is the PKK because of their armed resistance.
It may be that, if anything good comes out of all of this terrible conflict at the moment that it may actually move things forward when it comes to negotiating and ending the militant opposition of the PKK.
SARAH DINGLE: Professor Barton says, given the rapid pace of change in the region, it’s possible that nations will rethink the PKK’s status as a terrorist organisation.
ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle reporting.