Negotiations with the PKK to start soon
They call it “armed conflict,” but what is occurring between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) nowadays is a chess game, an indirect negotiation.
Let me explain: Last fall, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was returning from the U.N. talks in New York, he told reporters that the government had entered into a new process with the PKK and said, “Security measures will increase and also, in parallel with this, negotiations will be conducted.” The PKK had not responded to the government’s initiative with the expected goodwill and had opted for war. Because of this, the initiative was terminated, and the negotiations conducted through the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) were cancelled. For that moment, only weapons could speak, with negotiations to be reconsidered later if circumstances allowed.
Months have passed, and we have seen only the security side of the situation. The doors of İmralı (the island where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is serving a life sentence) were shut, Öcalan’s contact with the outside world was cut off, and a very severe campaign against both the PKK and the alleged urban wing of the PKK, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), was conducted.
Especially in terms of the KCK arrests, right and wrong have been mixed in this situation. Harsh criticisms have been made. Even I, in this column, opposed the arrests of thinkers and journalists, who were not instigating violence, together with militants. Rights and wrongs were mixed, but at the end of the day, this strategy worked, and a heavy blow was inflicted on the PKK.
For the first time in a long time, there is an impression that the organization has been stuck at Kandil (Mountain) and has lost its mobility, without the need for major military operations. I don’t know to what extent this perception is true, but I also share this view, which holds that the PKK’s military actions are restricted.
Well, all of these are a bargain, a negotiation from a distance… but what happened to the negotiation leg of this strategy, when the sides can take seats around a table officially? Has it been forgotten? No.
In recent weeks, I have received news that contacts will slowly begin to be made through the MİT, and that a few first pokes have already been made. Some important developments, that have encouraged the government as it began to take these steps, were the information revealed during the MİT-police conflict and that realization that the recorded minutes of the MİT-PKK meeting (posted on the web) did not create negative public reaction.
The impression I got from the person in Ankara who has approved and implemented this general state strategy and his entourage is that the expansion of this negotiation will depend on the stances of the PKK and İmralı.
If you listen carefully, you will notice that Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who is coordinating this, frequently refers to a new process and says that some things will happen soon. These words are easy to overlook, because they have been said so often, but I can see the signs of spring coming.
The decision made by the Öcalan-PKK front will affect the course of events. They will make a historic decision. Either they will escalate terrorism and violence, and there will be an awful bloodbath, or common ground will be reached, and a long peace process will start. As long as they fully decide what they want. Really, it is high time.
The PKK needs to see that as long as it attempts to seek rights with terror, it will further lose international support and risk its domestic support. The organization must understand that there is no solution other than continuing the struggle through politics, and not with arms.
Okay, but the PKK might be placing its bet on buying time, saying “Once spring comes, then we will see.” I can tell them this: During that time they are buying, the government is not sitting idle. It is working. A “table” is not merely a tool you use in talks. Politicians, strategists, security people and intelligence people also use “tables” in the struggle. And their “tables” are much bigger and stronger.