Turkey: Rival candidates ramp up rhetoric over "PKK" accusations

Turkey: Rival candidates ramp up rhetoric over "PKK" accusations
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Recent spats between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu creates the impression that Turkey now has just one big problem to deal with: The PKK.

The presidential candidates in Turkey now seem to be locked in a debate over a single issue, as both accuse each other of being engaged in talks with the PKK.

It is not high inflation, or the currency crisis, or the extremely urgent task of renewing the building stock in a country faced with the horrifying prospect of further devastating earthquakes, that the rival presidential candidates seem to be interested in. What they have recently been focusing on is which one have secret ties with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

This was the false accusation through which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to corner his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu from the very beginning of his election campaign, but now Kilicdaroglu is responding similarly and equally furiously.

Now it looks like Turkey has just one big problem to deal with: The PKK.

After Kilicdaroglu recently said on Turkey's state broadcaster TRT that his rival "had secret negotiations with the PKK" in the past, and challenged him to a live debate, Erdogan dismissed the challenge, calling him "liar" and "fame seeker."

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday in Istanbul, Erdogan said:

"Mr. Kilicdaroglu has mentioned on TRT about some meetings between us and terrorist groups. Mr. Kilicdaroglu, if you can't prove this you will be proclaimed a sneaky coward. Kilicdaroglu is now obliged to prove that we had a meeting somewhere with the representatives of the terrorist organization (...). If you cannot, I repeat, you are a sneaky coward."

Accusing Kilicdaroglu of "receiving instructions from the Qandil Mountains," where the PKK has its headquarters, and of holding meetings with the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Erdogan said:

"You have talks with them at their offices in the parliament, upon instructions you get from Qandil. You have talks with them and you make a road map with them."

He added:

"You lie all the time anyway, this is what your life is all about. And you go on, shamelessly, to challenge me to a debate on TV. I know what you're after, you want to be famous."

Kilicdaroglu reiterated his claim later in the day, saying in a tweet:

"I do not just say that you had meetings, Erdogan, you are a sponsor of terrorists. If it's proof that you want, I'm challenging you. Confront me in your own TV TRT, this evening, or tomorrow, or Saturday."

The presidential election runoff in Turkey will be held on Sunday.