President, Honourable Members,
I welcome the opportunity to join you today. The continued deterioration of the overall security situation in the southeast of Turkey is extremely disquieting. The EU has repeatedly expressed its concern about the situation, including in the latest statements of 22 December and 16 January, and is following developments closely.
Some of the political problems, on both sides, have also been exacerbated by the current crises, including the threat from Da'esh as demonstrated by the latest attack in Istanbul on 12 January and the attacks last year in Suruç and Ankara. However, a stable southeast is important not just for Turkey, from a political, economic and security perspective, but for the EU and the wider region as well.
We absolutely need to preserve the political space we have worked hard to create so that transition can start in Syria. The only possible and effective response is to deal with the conflicts that we have in our region in a united way. This will be the best way to effectively counter and defeat Da'esh on the ground. We must be very careful not to allow the breakdown of the Kurdish peace process and current tensions in the southeast to fuel further tensions there.
In all our interactions with Turkey we continue to urge all parties to guarantee the rule of law in the country and to call for an immediate ceasefire and an urgent return to the Kurdish Peace process. The High Level Political Dialogue on 25 January will be another opportunity to raise these issues. Important progress had been made over the past two years and this should not be thrown away. The peace process remains the best opportunity in a generation to solve a conflict that has claimed far too many lives.
We have also been clear that the PKK must cease its attacks against Turkey.
It must stop declaring autonomy in districts with the south east and re-engage in political dialogue. Resuming talks and negotiations within the peace process is the only way forward.
We will continue to reassure Turkey that the EU takes the PKK threat very seriously and that the EU Member States have also acted robustly against the PKK. The PKK has been a listed organisation for the purposes of EU sanctions since 2002. The Council unanimously endorsed this decision in March 2015 and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.
However, while we recognise Turkey's legitimate right to defend itself against the PKK, we have also emphasised, and will continue to emphasise, in our dialogue with Turkish authorities that measures taken against the PKK, must be proportionate, targeted and should not endanger the democratic political dialogue. The measures currently being taken by security services in the south-east, which includes the use of long-lasting curfews, have resulted in extreme disruptions to essential services such as healthcare, and means of communication. The proportionality and legality of such operations must be ensured and should comply with international human rights standards.
Some of the sensitivities have existed for decades and it will require require real courage from all parties to address these long-standing and deeply felt issues. The Commission will work with the new government on all reforms in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights, freedom of religion and expression.
I look forward very much to hearing the views of Honourable Members.
Thank you for your attention.