By Diyar Guldogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday there is "no difference" between the separatist PKK, Daesh, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group blamed for the July 15 defeated coup.
"There is no difference between the PKK, Daesh, and FETO. They all serve the same purpose," Erdogan said in an address to a delegation of Islamic NGOs at the Presidential Palace.
Erdogan said despite the terrorist groups’ different names, they share the same motives.
Speaking just hours after a trio of deadly PKK attacks in Turkey’s east and southeast, he added that FETO was "behind" these attacks in terms of "intelligence-sharing and "encouragement."
In the wake of the defeated July 15 coup, the PKK stepped up its attacks in eastern Turkey.
"The latest attack [in the Elazig province] explicitly reveals that the aim was purely and simply to shed blood, to cause mourning, and to disturb the social peace," Erdogan said.
He called the latest attacks "retaliation" for weeks of “democracy watch” rallies that attracted hundreds of thousands of people wanting to show their opposition to the foiled July 15 coup.
"Since July 15, 182 terrorists were neutralized in operations both at home and abroad," Erdogan said. He also said Turkey will "never" give up its fight against the PKK, even while it continues working against FETO.
Erdogan criticized Western countries, saying: "We will maintain this struggle anywhere. The Western world did not and will not understand this struggle. We are aware of this. They do not behave honestly. We are also aware of this."
He also slammed allegations that Turkey has aided Daesh. "Daesh is not a representative of Islam. Daesh is a terrorist organization that casts a shadow, a dark pall over Islam. We could never take sides with Daesh," Erdogan said.
The president added those who make such allegations are in fact helping Daesh.
Erdogan said FETO must be "nipped in the bud," adding: "The sooner measures are taken against FETO, the more [its activities] can be curtailed."
The president also called on the U.S. to extradite Fetullah Gulen, the leader of FETO, saying: "Now we are demanding a terrorist from you... Let us judge Gulen."
Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the failed coup and has sent the U.S. two official requests for his extradition to face trial.
Turkey's government has said the defeated July 15 coup, which left 240 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was organized by followers of Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999, and his FETO network.
Gulen is accused of leading a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the parallel state.