Intel agency starts fresh talks on İmralı island

Intel agency starts fresh talks on İmralı island

Intel agency starts fresh talks on İmralı island

The small boat seen in this photo, which belongs to the Directorate of Coastal Security, carries visitors to İmralı.

Turkish intelligence officials are holding talks with the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, in an effort to convince his organization to lay down their arms, daily Hürriyet reported yesterday.

Officials from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) held a four-hour meeting with Öcalan Dec. 22 on İmralı Island, where he has been serving a life sentence since 1999. During the meeting, Öcalan reportedly demanded direct contact with his organization and better prison conditions as a first step toward the militants’ disarmament.

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which has long argued that Öcalan should be given a leading role in a possible resolution process, was cautious regarding the report.

Instead of commenting on the report, the BDP called on the government to inform the public on talks with Öcalan, which they say is an “issue that would shape the future of the Kurdish question.”

“If the government intends to take steps regarding this issue, they should inform the public as well as the BDP. We cannot further comment on the issue since there is no concrete information,” BDP deputy parliamentary group chair İdris Baluken told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Talks with Öcalan and with the PKK have become a hot topic in Turkish politics once again after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Dec. 28 that his agents were meeting with Öcalan. “I cannot hold such meetings myself as a politician but the state has agents and they do [hold talks],” Erdogan told the state-run TRT television. “The meetings on [İmralı Island] are still under way because we must get a result. As long as we see a light [in the potential for a result], we continue to take steps. If there is no light, we will stop there,” he said.

The fresh talks with Öcalan aim to determine a timetable for the PKK to release a declaration laying down arms within the first few months of 2013, according to Hürriyet. If the target is achieved, the PKK, which has halted operations due to winter conditions, would supposedly begin to disarm in the spring.

High-ranking PKK militants would be given the option of exile abroad if they lay down their arms. Australia would be an option for those high-ranking militants, according to the claims.

Hints at talks

Turkish ministers previously hinted that the government had already held talks with Öcalan to end a 69-day-long hunger strike staged to demand an end to the isolation of the PKK leader. The decision for an end to the strike came after a call from Öcalan to hunger strikers in prisons across the country on Nov. 17. The call was conveyed via his brother, Mehmet Öcalan, who visited the PKK leader Nov. 17 in his prison on İmralı Island for the first time in months. Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said Nov. 20 that a well-planned and well-coordinated effort by government officials had played a role in ending the hunger strikes.