ROME – Scuffles between pro-Kurdish demonstrators and Italian police broke out in Rome on Monday during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to the country.
Erdogan already had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican City and was later due to hold discussions with senior Italian officials.
But the hard-line leader’s trip prompted protests in central Rome, where police stood-off against demonstrators expressing their opposition to Turkey’s recent military operation against Kurdish militias in the Syrian enclave of Afrin.
The People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces in control of Afrin are seen by Ankara as a terrorist group affiliated to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla organization.
Flags belonging to the YPG, the YPJ all-female unit, the PKK and of its founding member Abdullah Ocalan, who was imprisoned in Turkey, could all be seen at the protest as police moved in to disperse the crowds.
At least one man was injured in the scuffle, although it was not clear who or what inflicted his apparent light head wound.
Erdogan has recently ramped up his military rhetoric against the Kurdish forces in northern Syria and seeks to create a buffer zone long his country’s shared border.
His campaign is complicated, however, by the United States policy of backing the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State terror organization.