ATHENS/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey protested on Friday against the presentation of a book by a Kurdish militant leader in Athens, saying it undermined friendship efforts between the long-standing regional rivals.
Greece and Turkey have a history of enmity which has brought them to the brink of war on several occasions, most recently in 1996. Relations have since warmed with natural disasters in both countries bringing the two NATO allies closer.
Ankara, however, reacted angrily to the presentation of a book in the Greek capital’s War Museum written by Murat Karayilan, the de-facto leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who is sought by Interpol.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu phoned his Greek counterpart on Thursday to complain about the event, which it described as an “extremely unfortunate development” in what it called a fight against terrorism.
“It is also worrying in the sense of showing that some circles, who are uneasy about the development of Turkish-Greek friendship, are still active,” the ministry said.
The PKK, which took up arms in 1984 in a campaign for autonomy in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Greece sought to play down the spat, saying it knew nothing about Wednesday’s presentation, which was privately organised.
“This event has no relation whatsoever with the Greek government ... therefore, there is no issue,” the ministry’s spokesman Gregory Delavekouras said.
“Greece condemns all forms of terrorism unequivocally.”
The book’s translator, a former Greek army general and spy with Greece’s Intelligence Service when the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in 1999, was unimpressed.
“One wonders where (Ankara) found the audacity or better yet, who gave Turkey the right to try and create an issue where one doesn’t exist,” Savvas Kalenteridis wrote in a blog post, slamming Ankara’s remarks as “completely ridiculous and silly”.
Ocalan was captured and returned to Turkey after hiding in the Greek ambassador’s residence in Kenyan capital Nairobi in 1999. Three Greek ministers were forced to resign at the time amid accusations that they had colluded in hiding Ocalan.
More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the 28-year-old conflict between the PKK and Turkish forces.
Turkish F-16 warplanes launched an attack on a group of PKK fighters identified by drones in southeastern Turkey, killing eight of the fighters, security sources said on Friday.
The local governor’s office said the attack in the early hours of Thursday was triggered when thermal cameras spotted the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the Semdinli district of Hakkari province, near the borders with Iraq and Iran.
There has been an upsurge in PKK violence over the summer and 42 militants were reportedly killed in a three-day operation in Hakkari earlier this month.
Ankara has linked the rise in violence to the chaos in neighbouring Syria and has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of resuming support for the PKK and arming the militants.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris in Athens and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by Jon Hemming