Turkish warplanes have carried out airstrikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the Avaşin-Basyan and Zap regions of northern Iraq. According to a statement released from Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), weapon launching positions and shelters belonging to the group were destroyed in the airstrikes carried out on April 21. The TSK also said that two hand-made explosives were destroyed in the security operations carried out in the eastern province of Bitlis.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has determined a total of 11 alleged voting irregularities in the April 16 constitutional referendum on shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system.The last-minute decision of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to accept unstamped ballot papers as valid is included in the CHP’s report of alleged irregularities, prepared based on the applications of polling clerks in the first two days after the vote. The YSK decision to accept unstamped ballot papers “unless it can be proven that they were brought from outside the voting room” sparked a major debate on the results of the referendum, in which the “yes” campaign narrowly emerged as the winner with 51.4 percent of the votes.
Italy on April 19 called on Turkey to release a journalist arrested this month near the Syrian border while he was researching refugees. Gabriele Del Grande, 34, was clapped in cuffs by Turkish police on April 9 during interviews with people who had fled the war-torn neighboring country for a book he is writing on the conflict and the origins of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The foreign ministry in Rome said in a statement that Del Grande had managed to speak to his relatives by telephone on April 18 but that “this is obviously not enough”. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, an Italian politician, also called for his immediate release.
Lawmakers in the Kurdistan Parliament called on the international community to work towards the release of officials from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP). A number of lawmakers gathered in front of the Kurdistan Parliament’s office in Sulaimani on Wednesday (April 19) calling on the international community to intervene and help release the Kurdish parties’ officials in Turkey. Lawmaker from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Salar Mahmoud, said during a press conference that all the Kurdistan Parliament lawmakers support the release of the HDP and DBP officials. “We call on the international community so that the HDP and DBP [officials] are released”, Mahmoud said, adding that the release of the officials would help bring peace to Turkey.
The referendum result is dubious and the office that cast doubt on the referendum is the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK), main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said, accusing the election watchdog of violating the constitution and manipulating the poll results. Slamming YSK’s earlier decision that deemed unsealed ballots valid on the referendum, Kılıçdaroğlu accused the members of the top election board for being influenced by a political authority. He said the decision was against the bylaw which “clearly states that the unsealed ballots will not be deemed valid”.
The 24 million Turkish citizens who voted against the constitutional changes have scored a “democratic victory” even though they failed to halt the government’s project, the main opposition leader has said, warning that Turkey will be ungovernable with the constitution. “Despite all the bureaucratic pressure of the state, despite all the state’s financial and bureaucratic resources [used by the government] and despite the ongoing state of emergency, the naysayers claimed a victory for democracy, no matter what they say”, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a phone interview with daily Hürriyet on April 17.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi has said Iran respects the results of Turkey’s referendum, as it is the decision of the Turkish nation. Ghasemi, who was attending his weekly press conference on Monday, made the remarks announcing Islamic Republic’s stance toward the referendum held in Turkey on Sunday; “it is an domestic issue of Turkey and Iran respects whatever the Turkish people vote for; it is too early to discuss the effects of the act yet we hope it would help peace and stability in the region and Turkey as well”. On trilateral military cooperation between Iran, Russia and Syria, Ghasemi, while underlining that the trilateral cooperation is a normal and longstanding one that also would include military collaborations when needed. “Iran objects any movement threatening territorial integrity of regional states; Iraq is not an exception and its sovereignty is an absolute rule for Islamic Republic; therefore Iran backs coexistence of all ethnic and religious groups within the frames of Iraqi government and its constitution”, the spokesman said while responding to a question of Iraqi Kurdistan. On US and its recent military measures in the region, Ghasemi said “they seem to stem from US’ bewilderment and its domestic issues rather than being a pure military action; they were to do something in Middle East to earn at home and deliver certain messages to their allies in the region; yet they are the ones who will lose at the end”, condemning US attacks on Syria and Afghanistan calling them politically-motivated. “Iran’s stance on recent developments in Syria is clear; we strongly condemned the attacks and called for establishment of a fact-finding committee”, he said adding, “Moscow visit by Foreign Minister Zarif was necessary as consultations were needed between key players of Syrian issue; Turkey also would join the three states in Astana talks scheduled for May”. “Iran would not violate JCPOA and anyone who would preside the country is expected to take the same approach”, the Foreign Ministry spokesman reaffirmed when asked on violations of the deal by other parties.
As Turkey reached the final stages of counting the results of its referendum on Sunday, Kurds living in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir said they were looking forward to peace in the country. As they watched the results on television inside a traditional tea house, many said they were accepting of a move from Turkey’s parliamentary democracy to an all-powerful presidency that may see Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in power until at least 2029, in the most radical change to the country’s political system in its modern history. Diyarbakir is dominated by Kurds, many of whom support the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The referendum vote was strongly in favor of “No” at 67.58 percent against 32.42 percent in favor of “Yes”.
Gaza is bracing for a severe energy crisis after donor funds from Qatar and Turkey – used to purchase diesel fuel for the coastal enclave’s lone power plant – have run out. According to the Hamas-controlled Energy Authority in Gaza, it no longer has the funds to buy more diesel fuel and pay the requisite taxes, which are levied by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. In January 2017, Turkey pledged to send 15,000 tons of diesel fuel to Gaza to operate the power station. The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, met with Hamas’ thenpolitburo deputy chief Ismail Haniyeh and promised to transfer $12 million to the Palestinian Energy Authority in Ramallah to purchase the large quantities of diesel fuel needed to run the Gaza power station.In the past, long power outages have sparked public outcry in Gaza. Much of the blame has been aimed at the Palestinian Authority but Hamas has also been criticized, despite the fact that demonstrations in Gaza against Hamas have been outlawed by the terrorist organization.Beyond the one power plant, Gaza’s 2 million residents also rely on electricity imports from Israel and Egypt.
Economic issues will be a top priority after Turkey’s referendum on April 16, Finance Minister Naci Ağbal has said, adding that new measures to give a further boost to the Turkish economy would be discussed. Speaking to Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk in Ankara on April 13, Ağbal said the government’s previously launched measures had already given yields. “By April 17, the economy will be the top agenda for Turkey’s political scene. We will discuss fresh measures to maintain economic growth in 2017 and 2018”, said Ağba.