Deputy PM sees no laying down of arms by PKK before election

Deputy PM sees no laying down of arms by PKK before election

Deputy PM sees no laying down of arms by PKK before election

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Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan has forecasted that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not likely to hold a congress in the next few months on a decision to lay down their arms, indicating it will not happen before the June 7 parliamentary election. 

“At the moment, the PKK’s holding of a congress and laying down their arms in the short term, in these few months, is not in sight,” Akdoğan said on April 16, while speaking with the Ankara bureau chiefs of a group of media outlets.

Without further elaboration, Akdoğan continued his remarks by criticizing the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), particularly for their stance in regards to a recent clash between security forces and PKK militants which took place in the eastern province of Ağrı on April 11.

“Here, between democracy and terror; one of them is white and one of them is black. Now, these [the HDP] are trying to produce a gray field in the middle and they don’t want the state to intervene. Why would the state not come into contact? In order for the citizens to cast their ballots with their free will, the state has to take measures,” said Akdoğan, who reiterated the government’s suggestion that the PKK was putting pressure on people to vote in favor of the HDP in the June 7 election.

“The resolve of our prime minister, of our president and the government concerning the resolution process is obvious. There is no such thing like soft-pedaling or pigeon-holing; it is definitely out of the question,” he also noted.

Five PKK militants were killed and four Turkish soldiers were injured in Ağrı on April 11 in clashes that erupted after PKK militants opened fire on security forces, the Turkish military said in a statement over the weekend. The PKK on April 13 denied that its militants attacked first, also arguing only one civilian and one PKK militant were killed in the clashes. A delegation from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which went to Ağrı to investigate the deadly clash, also said two people were killed in the incident.

Ankara and the PKK agreed to a ceasefire two years ago, as part of negotiations to end decades of insurgency that has killed 40,000 people. But the fragile peace process has been strained ahead of the election. 

Ankara has been pushing for the PKK to lay down its arms as part of the peace process ahead of polling day and Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, urged the outlawed group to convene an extraordinary congress to “end the 40-year-long armed struggle” against Turkey in a letter read out during the Nevruz celebrations in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on March 21. 

In his letter, Öcalan also stressed the need for a “democratic solution” to Turkey’s Kurdish problem, arguing that the “meaningless and merciless identity wars” were the result of “the neoliberal crisis caused by the imperialist capitalism and its local collaborators.”

He issued his first call on the PKK to declare a ceasefire during Nevruz in 2013, which was followed by a peace process involving negotiations between the government, the HDP and Öcalan.

The government has stepped up its rhetoric against the HDP, saying it tried to use recent clashes between Turkish soldiers and Kurdish militants to whip up anti-government sentiment and gain Kurdish votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Recently, HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the government was trying to take electoral advantage of the peace process.

“The government wanted to ... turn the desire for peace into votes,” he said. “We will not let this be taken advantage of.”