PARIS (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday a peace process with Kurdish militants would continue after the killing of four soldiers and riots this month over what Kurds saw as Turkey’s refusal to help their kin in Syria.
Four soldiers have been shot by members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast over the past week, according to the army, in a blow to peace talks between Ankara and the insurgents.
Dozens were killed in eastern Turkey earlier this month after riots by Kurds over what they saw as the government’s failure to help Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State jihadists in the besieged town of Kobani on Turkey’s southern border.
“The reconciliation process with the Kurds continues despite efforts to tarnish it,” Erdogan said during a speech in Paris, speaking through an interpreter.
“Four Turkish soldiers were killed after a cowardly attack. But we will not change our direction or position because of this attack,” he said.
The predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria has been encircled by Islamic State insurgents for more than 40 days. Turkey has refused to send troops to fight the militants but has allowed a group of Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross from northern Iraq to help defend the town.
Ankara fears Syria’s Kurds will exploit the chaos by following their brethren in Iraq and seeking to carve out an independent state in northern Syria, emboldening PKK militants in Turkey and derailing the fragile peace process.
Turkey’s stance has enraged its own Kurdish minority and the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which accuses the government of favoring Islamic State over the Kurds, has called for marches on Saturday in solidarity with Kobani.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the call for protests is damaging to the peace process and has instructed provincial governors not to allow civil disorder, raising the prospect of further clashes with the security forces.
Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Catherine Evans