BDP leader suggests meeting between PM and jailed PKK leader
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
‘Let them discuss this face to face. Both Öcalan and Erdoğan, I believe they will each take a mutual step and this may change a lot of things. I’m not saying this as a crazy idea either,’ Demirtaş says. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZThe jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, is willing to meet with politicians from the ruling party, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said, hinting at the idea of a meeting between Öcalan and the prime minister.
Demirtaş’s proposal, which was based on the view that such a meeting would be useful for the sake of the stalled peace process, came as he was speaking about a recent controversy between himself and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Erdoğan. The controversy erupted after the Justice Ministry denied Demirtaş’ request to visit Öcalan on İmralı island prison on Oct. 14, reportedly due to his harsh criticism of the recently announced democratization package.
“I wish the prime minister himself would go [to İmralı],” Demirtaş said, speaking with a group of journalists on Oct. 22, after he addressed a meeting of his parliamentary party.
Demirtaş’s tone regarding the controversy over visits to İmralı, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence, was somewhat dampened in comparison to the speech he delivered to his parliamentary party, in which he said the decision to send or not to send someone to İmralı belonged entirely to the government.
“I am saying this sincerely, he is the prime minister of this country. Doesn’t he have the right to meet any convict in any prison of Turkey?” said Demirtaş, whose party is closely involved in the process aimed at solving the century-old Kurdish issue by ending the three-decade long armed conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the PKK.
“Let them discuss this face to face. Both Öcalan and Erdoğan, I believe they will each take a mutual step and this may change a lot of things. I’m not saying this as a crazy idea either,” Demirtaş said, highlighting the seriousness of the offer.
He stressed that Öcalan did not mention Erdoğan’s name in particular, but expressed his willingness for meeting “a political counterpart,” either from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) or from the government, but not simply a bureaucrat.
‘Great efforts should not be wasted’
The BDP will continue to be flexible and will not insist on the visits of certain personalities to İmralı, Demirtaş went on to say, adding that Öcalan was still expecting a response from the government to his proposals.
“If the government [intelligence] officials do not come [for further talks], I will presume my proposals as having been refused,” he quoted Öcalan as saying.
Recent remarks by Cemil Bayık, the head of the PKK’s political wing, about rekindling an insurgency unless Ankara resuscitates the peace process soon indicate the urgency of the situation, according to Demirtaş.
“Recently [BDP deputy parliamentary group chairs] Pervin Buldan and İdris Baluken visited Kandil [the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq] and they received a similar impression. We are warning the government; however, our warnings are being perceived as threats and blackmail. We are using strong language in an attempt to emphasize the severity of the situation,” Demirtaş said.
“Nobody should give up on the process easily. Even if the prime minister gives up, civil society, wise-men, media and the public as whole should pressure [the government] for the continuation of the process. Great efforts have been exerted up until now and everybody is aware of this. I believe the government will also come to the conclusion that it is now time for some practical changes; particularly concerning Öcalan’s physical conditions in İmralı,” he added.