Turkey should continue "patiently" with the 'solution process' following the recent terrorist attack on Turkish troops in the eastern province of Agri, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz has said.
His comments came on Sunday after four Turkish troops were wounded, five terrorists killed and another injured in an exchange of fire after a group of terrorists opened fire with rifles on soldiers around the village of Yukaritutek in the district of Diyadin the day before.
Answering reporters' questions in the central province of Sivas where he was attending a number of events, Yilmaz wished a speedy recovery to the wounded troops and said Turkish security forces would continue to work diligently as they always did.
He said: "There are three main issues here. One; those who see that the solution process is a must for the future of this country want to hinder this effort."
"Two; the whole nation must act against those who are against this solution process and, three; arms and politics don't go together."
"It is not possible to place a lien on public will," he said.
'More attacks due'
Yilmaz said Turkey should continue patiently with the solution process, referring to the government initiative launched in early 2013 to settle the Kurdish issue and secure an end to the decades-old conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK which has so far claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.
"We would like to reach this goal and we can do this only with the support of our people," he said.
When asked about the timing of the incident ahead of the upcoming general elections on June 7, Yilmaz said that "such attacks will increase further."
"They will try to bring down the votes of the (governing) AK Party through creating an impression that the solution process is not going well. Hopefully, our people will see this ploy for what it is and ignore such attempts," he said.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Twitter on Saturday that the Turkish Armed Forces “duly responded to the treacherous attack” in Agri, and vowed that "the security of the elections, where our people will vote with their free will, will surely be provided”.
Davutoglu visited the wounded troops at the GATA on Sunday, following their transfer to the military hospital in the capital, Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the clashes between the Turkish troops and 25 terrorists.
"I strongly condemn this attack on our security forces who work selflessly to ensure the security of our people. The attack aims to shatter the environment of peace in the country, and sabotage the solution process," he said on Saturday.
He also warned a political party, without giving names, against using arms to get votes in the upcoming elections.
"This party is trying to procure votes through the activities of this terrorist organization. The way to democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms is not through weapons; it is through the ballot box," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan also condemned what he said was a "terrorist attack on our security forces who try their best to ensure the peace and security of our people in Agri.”
"It is unacceptable to use pressure, violence and arms for political competition, and to place a lien on public will," he said on Twitter, calling for an end to "partisanship supported by terrorist organizations" and warning against "terrorizing politics.”
The Turkish Interior Ministry also released a statement saying, "The attack during the deployment of troops to the region justifies our sensitivity regarding public order, and the necessity for the measures taken.”
"All institutions of our government are determined to take and implement all necessary measures in the face of such incidents which undermine public order and jeopardize the security of our citizens," it said.
The Turkish General Staff had said in an earlier statement Saturday that the troops had been deployed to the area over Friday night upon a tipoff on an event scheduled by a terrorist group.
"Upon a tip that a terrorist organization planned a 'Spring Fest' event on Saturday and Sunday in the area with the purpose of propaganda, and in order to pressure locals to vote for certain nominees in the upcoming June 7 elections, a total of 15 military teams from the Agri Provincial Gendarmerie were dispatched to the area over Friday night in order to secure the area and establish public order upon the order of Agri governor," the statement read.
Manned reconnaissance planes, attack helicopters and commandos were deployed to the area, and the clashes were ongoing, it added.
'Cross the threshold'
On Wednesday, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, said at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara that the HDP could be a force in the ongoing efforts to find a solution to the decades-old conflict with the PKK, but would need to cross the election threshold and gain representation in parliament in order to do so.
"The success of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party in Turkey's June 7 elections would help facilitate the disarming of the PKK," he said.
PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
The group's jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has called on the terrorist organization to lay down arms.
'Faith in weapons'
The HPD is taking part in the general election for the first time under its own banner and, in line with other parties in Turkey, needs to win at least 10 percent of votes in order to gain seats in parliament.
Demirtas denied claims in Turkey on Wednesday that members of the PKK had been on HDP candidate lists for the polls.
He said: "The faith in weapons being silenced will be revealed by our general election results."
"The success of the HDP will facilitate the process of disarmament."
He said the HDP would announce its election manifesto on April 21 in Istanbul.
Current HDP lawmakers ran as independents in the 2011 general election, receiving about 6.57 percent of the vote, which corresponds to about 3 million voters.
All pro-Kurdish lawmakers had previously stood for the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, before the HDP was established in 2012.
About 56 million Turkish citizens will vote in the country's 25th general elections, to elect the 550 members of parliament.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.