Kurdish deputies take bid for gov’t-PKK peace talks
Process on peace talks is very sensitive, says Türk. DAILY NEWS photo
A hectic diplomatic campaign inside and outside Turkey has been launched by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in a bid to facilitate peace between the government and Kurdish militants a day after two prominent Kurdish politicians held talks with the outlaws’ imprisoned leader.
Ahmet Türk, chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), went to Diyarbakır with Ayla Akat Ata, a BDP deputy, to inform the relevant DTK bodies as well as BDP co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş about their meeting with outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.
BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak, meanwhile, went to Brussels in a snap visit to possibly meet with senior figures of the PKK who are stationed in Europe. Kışanak could meet with Zübeyir Aydar, a leading PKK member in Europe who said the PKK should also be involved in the dialogue process along with Öcalan.
There were also unconfirmed reports that Türk could head to northern Iraq to meet with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani.
“As you know, this has been a bleeding wound for years. It is all of our responsibility to heal this wound and to contribute in this end. We expect everybody to show a similar stance. That’s all I want to say now,” Türk told reporters in Diyarbakır. “This is a very sensitive process.”
Following the collapse of several attempts to find a solution to the problem, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Chief Hakan Fidan visited Öcalan in İmralı in December 2012, producing a revived effort to resolve the Kurdish problem, which has been ongoing for four decades.
The government said it was carrying out an integrated system, placing Öcalan at the center of it with the ultimate goal of disarming the PKK. Negotiations will likely be difficult as the Kurdish political movement has so far placed serious political demands on the government, which seems unwilling to make many concessions.
PKK to withdraw to northern Iraq
Although not confirmed, there are reports that Fidan and Öcalan agreed on a road map that included steps both sides will take simultaneously. Without giving details, Yalçın Akdoğan, a senior political adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, suggested first step that could make dialogue between Turkey and the PKK meaningful would be the withdrawal of armed PKK elements from Turkish soil.
A surprising response to Akdoğan’s statement came from senior PKK member Murat Karayılan. “Disarmament is not the thing the Turkish side is demanding from us,” Karayılan said.
“I want to underline this point: the demand [of the state] was withdrawal from the borders in both the İmralı and Oslo processes. This is what the state demands from us,” Fırat news agency reported Karayılan said Jan. 4. It is estimated that there are around 2,500 militants inside Turkey at this time.
Although peace talks have been launched, the military will continue to press ahead with operations against PKK militants that Akdoğan described as a “complementary factor” to talks. “Operations are continuing,” Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin told Anatolia news agency in an interview. “They will continue until members of the group who bear enmity against our people are no longer in a position to attack or shed blood.”
Öcalan’s situation very important
According to Karayılan, there is another step the Turkish state should take to show it has fully committed to the process. “They should first change our leader’s position,” he said, referring to Öcalan who has been serving a life sentence on İmralı island in the Marmara Sea since the early 2000s.
One point the government and the PKK have agreed on is the need to find a way of communication between İmralı and Kandil, a mountain in the northern Iraq where the PKK organization has its headquarters and training camps. MİT has decided to include the BDP within the peace process as a bridge between İmralı and Kandil, but the PKK leadership has apparently demanded direct communication with Öcalan.
Political demands are delicate
However, the most delicate issue is to what extent the government should meet political demands introduced by the PKK and the BDP in efforts to finalize a deal that could result in the PKK laying down its arms.
One of the BDP’s most important demands is to increase the autonomy of local administrations under what they call “democratic autonomy.” This stipulates creating 25 or 26 regions in the country. Ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government is another requirement in this end.
Granting more constitutional rights to Kurds like education in one’s mother tongue is another demand that has been voiced by the Kurdish politicians.
Cautious optimism in air following lawmakers’ meeting with Öcalan
meeting between Kurdish issue-focused deputies and the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, has led to cautious optimism on Turkey’s political stage.
While Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the process that had begun with the visit could continue only if it was not abused, the remarkable development drew considerable support from civil society and Kurdish-origin politicians. Ergin said late on Jan. 3 that the government had allowed Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmaker Ayla Akat Ata and independent deputy Ahmet Türk to meet with Öcalan on İmralı island. “Our government was informed about the visit, and we authorized it. We consider this a helpful step for the country. But this process won’t last long if it is abused,” he said.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu, was, nevertheless, cautious on Jan. 4 in welcoming the meeting, voicing concern that it might be a nominal move. “If these are meetings aimed at the laying down of arms, then we would find them positive. But if it is a meeting held by the government for periodic success whenever it feels troubled, like it has done in the past, then this will go nowhere,” Tanrıkulu said.
‘Patient and realistic’
Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker and adviser to the premier Yalçın Akdoğan also voiced caution, saying finding a rapid resolution to the issue was not possible. “We should be hopeful and well-intentioned, but we should not be dreamers. We have to be patient and realists.”
AKP deputy chair and spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik, speaking after his party’s Central Executive Board meeting, said holding talks with Öcalan did not mean that the government put a stop to the armed struggle against terrorism. “Meetings could be held with Öcalan, or with other names to make the terror organization lay down its arms.” he said.
BDP deputy group chair Pervin Buldan said she had not been informed about the content of the meeting but that she was optimistic. She said the dialogue process with Öcalan should continue for a resolution to Kurdish problem.
“I had the impression that the meeting was very positive when I saw the glitter in Ahmet Türk’s eyes. I believe that meetings will continue in a positive direction from now on. What is important for us is this; Öcalan has been included in this process. That was what we’ve advocated from the very beginning,” Bultan said.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), however, harshly condemned the deputies’ meeting and described the move as “part of a new separation and disintegration process.” “The AKP has surrendered to terrorism and separatism and showed the white flag,” MHP deputy parliamentary group chair Oktay Vural said.
A delegation called “Representation and Dialogue Group” which is composed of representatives from several NGOs met with Ergin Jan 4. Speaking after the meeting, Şahismail Bedirhanoğlu, chairman of the Association of Southeastern Businessmen and Industrialists (GÜNSİAD), said that all parts of society should make efforts to contribute to a possible resolution process.