Turkish PM offers safe exit passage to PKK
ISTANBUL / ANKARA
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated yesterday that the Turkish military would not conduct any operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants that lay down their arms and agree to withdraw from Turkish soil, speaking after a crucial security meeting with senior figures
“If arms are laid down within the framework of these messages; moreover, if the terrorists inside the country leave the country, we will prepare the ground for their abandoning the country securely, exactly contrary to what had been done in the past,” he said.
Negotiations that could be conducted with the political extension of the PKK – that is to say, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – should not be confused with the struggle against the PKK, the final aim of which is to get the organization to lay down their arms, Erdoğan first noted when asked about Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s statement on Feb. 2.
Arınç had said that imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s messages could convince the PKK to lay down their arms.
“Within the framework of the information conveyed to us by our intelligence organization, we see that messages given by İmralı are very important,” Erdoğan said at a press conference in Istanbul ahead of his departure for an official visit to Prague. By “İmralı,” he was referring to Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence in a prison on İmralı island.
Erdoğan implicitly suggested that there were similar messages given by both the armed leadership of the PKK based in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq and the European extensions of the organization.
The prime minister was referring to the fact that in 1999, following a cease-fire declaration by Öcalan upon his imprisonment earlier in the year, around 500 PKK militants were killed by Turkish security forces while withdrawing from Turkey.
His remarks on the issue followed a lengthy security meeting held in Istanbul on Feb. 2 with the participation of Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Interior Minister Muammer Güler, chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan.
A recent initiative called the “peace process” or “İmralı process” refers to talks involving Öcalan. In late December 2012, Erdoğan revealed that intelligence officials were holding talks with Öcalan to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil. On Jan. 3, Ahmet Türk – head of the Kurdish umbrella organization the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and an independent lawmaker – and the BDP’s Ayla Akat were allowed to visit Öcalan as part of the process.
Since then, a second parliamentarian visit is expected to be paid to Öcalan, with BDP executives saying that they have not yet received any negative or positive response from the Justice Ministry to their application.
Noting that the BDP was not promised a second visit nor given a suggestion about the date of such a visit, Erdoğan, stressed that the Justice Ministry held the initiative on this issue.
Roles of institutions
During his statement delivered in Bursa on Feb. 2, Arınç made a clear distinction between the roles of the institutions within the process.
At the moment, the process is being conducted by the MİT, a state body, upon assignment of the government, Arınç said: “If we arrive at a point where the [PKK’s] actions are halted and if this will have political consequences, then our government, our prime minister, will inform Parliament.”
Describing the current state of affairs involving MİT as “positive,” he said, “Looking at the messages given and at the decrease in recent actions [by the PKK], it is possible to say that we are supposedly at a positive point and that we are moving in a straight direction.”
Erdoğan and Arınç were not the only governmental figures who spoke on the issue over the weekend.
In Bingöl, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said ending terror would be the best economics incentive for the region as investors currently hesitate getting involved because of the risks stemming from terror.
When a reporter recalled that recently 837 new village guards were employed despite the resolution process, Atalay reiterated that all security operations against the PKK would end only when and if the PKK lays down its arms.