International Crisis Group calls for resumption of Turkey-PKK peace talks amid deadly clashes

International Crisis Group calls for resumption of Turkey-PKK peace talks amid deadly clashes

International Crisis Group calls for resumption of Turkey-PKK peace talks amid deadly clashes

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A new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) calls on Turkey to resume the talks to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem, as military operations targeting PKK militants continue in Turkey’s southeast.

Likening Turkey’s cyclical efforts to solve the conflict to the attempts of Sisyphus, a king in Greek mythology condemned to roll an immense boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down for infinity, Dec. 17 report “A Sisyphean Task? Resuming Turkey-PKK Peace Talks” argues that Turkey has to choose between an “inconclusive military face off” and a comprehensive solution by recognizing the rights of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens.

Critical choice

“Turkey faces a critical choice: to advance its military strategy against the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK in a fight that is bound to be protracted and inconclusive, or to resume peace talks,” it stated.

The report also outlines steps the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government should take in order to ensure a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“Shedding overconfidence based on its electoral victory and perceived geostrategic advantage, [the AKP] should return to a rights roadmap that concretely addresses Kurdish demands,” the report said. These demands are laid out as decentralization, recognition of the right to education in Kurdish, a fairer anti-terror law, defining citizenship as ethnically-neutral as opposed to its current emphasis on Turkishness, and lowering the 10 percent electoral threshold. 

Recognizing these demands is also necessary to earn the “confidence of a wider segment of society, including the HDP [the Peoples’ Democratic Party] supporters,” Crisis Group argued. 

“The HDP, now in parliament, can be a constructive counterpart on issues pertaining to Kurdish rights, though it has no sway over the PKK,” the report said. 

Moreover, important actors of the conflict, be it the legal HDP or the illegal PKK and its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, should not be bypassed in favor of traditional, religious partners in the region, the report stressed, warning that such a move is “likely to backfire.” 

Instead, “direct negotiations with the PKK, in parallel with a genuine reform agenda that engages legal actors in Ankara and the parliamentary opposition,” are underlined as the only feasible means to solve the 30-year conflict. 

The report added that the negotiations should become more inclusive, with more relevant figures from the ranks of the PKK being allowed at the table in addition to the introduction of an independent third party to the negotiation process. This would “institutionalize the process and make it less vulnerable to manipulation,” it suggested.