Istanbul, July 29 () - The power vacuum resulting from the atrocities of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and a lack of international response allowed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to flourish in the region, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour.
“If there is one person who is responsible for all these terrorist crimes and humanitarian tragedies in Syria, it is [al-]Assad’s approach, using chemical weapons, barrel bombs against civilians. Terrorist organizations like ISIS [ISIL] were able to be active in Syria because of that power vacuum” Davutoğlu said, using another acronym for the jihadist group.
Davutoğlu expressed his agreement with Amanpour when asked whether opening the strategic air base in İncirlik or creating a safe area earlier would have prevented the rise of ISIL.
“If that was done before, the [al-]Assad regime wouldn’t be killing so many people or pushing them to Turkey, Jordan, Iraq or Lebanon. There wouldn’t be any place or power vacuum for ISIS to be active. So ISIS is a product of the crisis, not the cause of a problem” he said.
The United States and Turkey recently agreed to work together to clear northern Syria of ISIL militants by establishing a 98 kilometer-long and 40 kilometer-wide ISIL-free zone. The area would both shelter refugees fleeing ISIL or the al-Assad regime and safeguard Turkish citizens from attacks by terrorist groups.
Davutoğlu refutes MHP's call for HDP closure
During the interview, Amanpour also touched on domestic politics, questioning whether airstrikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were motivated by early election calculations, as the Kurdish-problem focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had denied Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) a parliamentary majority in the June 7 election.
Davutoğlu rejected the allegations, saying the operations were against the PKK and not the HDP or Turkey’s Kurds. He added the HDP needed to condemn the PKK’s terrorist activities.
“In any democratic society, all political leaders have to make a choice: either democracy or terror; either peace or violence. Now the HDP has a dilemma here. They are not rejecting the PKK’s terrorist activities. They are not condemning them,” he stated.
Over the past week, the PKK claimed responsibility in the killing of two police officers in the southern town of Ceylanpınar, an action which was reciprocated by military operations against PKK locations in northern Iraq.
While calling on the HDP to decide whether it will take the side of democracy or terrorism, Davutoğlu has openly rejected the nationalist opposition party's call for the party's closure.
“In principle, I am against party closures as an active politician and as an academic,” Davutoğlu told the private broadcaster AHaber late July 28. The premier’s remarks came while evaluating the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) request, made to the Supreme Court of Appeals, to close of the HDP over its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“We have just completed elections and there is a representative parliament with a high legitimacy. Therefore, I don’t politically approve the closure of any political party,” Davutoğlu said.
However, he said, the issue also has a legal component and its subsequent judicial process that runs independently from political decisions. “The power to investigate [the HDP’s] link to terror belongs to the judicial institutions and not to us. Independent justice will do its own duty,” he added.
At the same time, Davutoğlu urged the HDP not to act as a mouthpiece of the terror organization. “As democratic organizations, the political parties should defend politics, not weapons,” he said.
Kürkçü talks with CNN's Amanpour
Honorary HDP President Ertuğrul Kürkçü joined the show following Davutoğlu’s interview and expressed sorrow for all the deaths, while refraining from issuing a condemnation.
Kürkçü claimed the latest operations and security measures were not related to the fight against ISIL but an attempt by the AKP to “prepare the ground for early elections.”
Kürkçü stressed the Kurds were the only ground force fighting ISIL and the major secular power in the Middle East.
“The major contribution for the fight against IS [ISIL] has been provided by PYD [Democratic Union Party] forces, the brethren of the Turkey’s PKK guerrillas in Syria. And they have become the principle savior of the Yazidi people to save from massacres of the IS in the Shengal Mountains. Therefore, what the Kurds are doing in Syria and what their brethren in Turkey are assisting them to do is bring an end to IS atrocities,” he said.