Turkey's Ruling Party Accuses Kurds of 'Ethnic Cleansing'

Kurdish fighters line the length of a road
Members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party stand guard during a Labour Day celebration in Efrin May 1, 2014. On Tuesday, Yasin Aktay, deputy foreign affairs chairman for Turkey's Justice and Development party, accused the group of ethnic cleansing. Mahmoud Hebbo/Reuters

Kurdish militants are carrying out "ethnic cleansing" in Syria with Russia's help, the deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling party told Al-Jazeera. He made the comments while defending Turkey's shelling of Kurdish positions.

The U.S. views Kurdish group the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) as an ally in the fight against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). But Ankara considers PYD an offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which has been accused of a series of attacks in Turkey and is deemed a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.

While Turkey supports the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, it has also hit PYD positions in Syria, suspecting the group of seeking to expand Kurdish territorial influence.

According to Yasin Aktay, deputy foreign affairs chairman for Turkey's Justice and Development party, Kurdish militants are moving into areas with "no or a small Kurdish population and [working] to deport non-Kurdish ethnic populations out of these areas."

"The PKK is carrying out ethnic cleansing in northern Syria through its offshoot there, the PYD," he said. "The group has been doing this with the support of Russia."

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at U.S. support for the PYD and said a failure to recognize the PYD as a terrorist group has turned the region into "a pool of blood." Russia has also pushed for greater Kurdish participation in the Syria peace talks, a call that Turkey opposes.

"At the end of the day, an ethnic group [the Kurds] which has a minor population in Syria is trying to take over a very large part of the country," Aktay added.