Amid the free-fall in Russian-Turkish relations, Moscow seems ready to exploit Turkey’s historical Achilles heel: its restive Kurdish minority.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged no rapprochement with Turkey’s current political leadership, Russian officials have extended an invitation to the leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party to visit Moscow.
Selahattin Demirtaş, head of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, is due in Moscow on December 24. Demirtaş has expressed a desire to open a party office in the Russian capital during his visit, which will be hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The visit will likely raise more than a few eyebrows in Ankara, stoking fears that Russian support could extend beyond Turkey’s legal Kurdish movement to Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK.
“The PKK had an office in Russia and from time to time it received assistance and support from Russia in the 1990s; Russia never considered PKK as a terrorist organization,” said retired Turkish diplomat Murat Bilhan, who served in Moscow.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.