Erdogan Says Turkey Has Proof Removed Mayors Supported PKK
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday (September 12) Turkey has evidence that mayors removed from two dozen Kurdish-run municipalities had sent support to Kurdish fighters, and said they should have been stripped of office sooner.
Turkey appointed new administrators in the 24 Kurdish-run municipalities on Sunday (September 11), triggering pockets of protest in parts of the largely-Kurdish southeast. The main pro-Kurdish opposition party called it an "administrative coup".
"Being elected a mayor does not mean you can do anything you want. You cannot support terrorist organizations as a mayor, you don't have such an authority," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after attending prayers to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
"Where did they send the support coming from the state? To the mountains. This has all been discovered," Erdogan said, referring to bases of Kurdish groups in the mountains of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. "Our government took this decision based on all of this evidence."
Erdogan said last week that the campaign against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, was now Turkey's largest ever and that the removal of civil servants linked to them was a key part of the fight.
The 24 municipalities had been run by the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest in parliament, which denies direct links to the PKK. It said it did not recognize the legitimacy of the mayors' removal.
The U.S. embassy said on Sunday that while it supported Turkey's right to combat terrorism, it hoped the appointment of government administrators would be temporary and that local citizens could soon choose new representatives.
Erdogan added that Turkey aims to send more than 30 trucks of food, children's clothes and toys to the Syrian city of Aleppo through "predetermined corridors" on Monday, as a truce negotiated between the United States and Russia is due to come into effect at sundown.
He said that the Red Crescent is also working to reach the border towns of al-Rai and Jarablus.
He said the initial 48-hour ceasefire could be extended by a week and then again for a further period if it held, and the aim was to establish "first class peace".
Previous efforts to forge agreements to stop the fighting and deliver humanitarian aid to besieged communities in Syria have crumbled within weeks, with the United States accusing Assad's forces of attacking opposition groups and civilians.
The United Nations said on Friday the Syrian government had effectively stopped aid convoys this month and the besieged city of Aleppo was close to running out of fuel, making a successful truce even more urgent.