Another development in Kurdish issue
MURAT YETKİNThe indications are mounting up to think that the Turkish government is preparing to take new steps regarding the Kurdish issue.
One of the recent indicators was an Istanbul meeting between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Following the strong Turkish reaction to the terror attack of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from its bases in the Iraqi Kurdish region that killed 24 Turkish soldiers on Oct. 19, Erdoğan had wanted to talk to Barzani in person about possible cooperation. Barzani agreed and said he could come after the Kurban Bayram holiday. But Erdoğan sent the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad, Murat Özçelik, to tell him the importance of the timing - on which nothing has been revealed so far - and Barzani flew to Istanbul. There he had extensive talks not only with Erdoğan but with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as well; to make sure that his cooperation was really valuable for Turkey.
Reliable sources told the Hurriyet Daily News that the demand from Barzani was not only putting more roadblocks on the roads to the Kandil Mountains where the PKK bases are or having more control on the planes between European cities and the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil to fight against illegal money transfers. There was more for example about a backtrack diplomacy to be carried out by Barzani and his team to stop the PKK from being a threat to Turkey from Iraqi territory.
In the meantime another development was heard. Ambassador Özçelik has been designated as the new Public Order and Security Undersecretary whose job is to coordinate the state’s efforts against terror threats on people. The undersecretariat was established last year but not much work has been carried out so far. The main reason was the reluctance of military, police and the intelligence to share information with each other due to inter-agency power struggles.
It seems that under Gen. Necdet Özel, the new chief of the General Staff, and Hakan Fidan, the new head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), a consensus was reached on a name who has the trust of nearly everyone in Turkey’s security system.
Özçelik is a career diplomat, he is not a security man, yet he has been in security diplomacy for quite some time. After serving as the Foreign Ministry spokesman under (now President) Gül, he assumed the tough job of the Iraq desk. His next job was special envoy for Iraq; that was before Iraq had its new constitution and structure. Since then he has been serving as Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad. He knows Iraq, he knows all the current actors in Iraq including Kurds, Shiites, Turkomans and Americans, he knows the Kurdish issue extensively, and not only the terrorism parts.
The Erdoğan government has to proceed along security and diplomacy channels of the Kurdish problem in parallel with the political channel. The work for a new and more democratic constitution is extremely important, as well as keeping the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who shares the same grass roots as the PKK, in this parliamentary work.