Is a new government-PKK dialogue possible in Turkey?

Is a new government-PKK dialogue possible in Turkey?

In practice, nothing is impossible in politics, especially in the highly volatile Turkish politics full of sharp turns. 

It is true that it was none other than Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım who ruled out the possibility of resuming a dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on June 8. “The terror organization,” Yıldırım said, referring to the PKK, “Has been sending direct or indirect messages that they could talk again, leave arms.

There is nothing to talk about.” By saying this Yıldırım underlined the ruthless terrorist actions by the PKK which have continued for almost a year now.

It is also true that Turkey was dragged into acts of terror and massive anti-terror operations since the breakup of the dialogue and resumption of PKK actions in July 2015 following a calm period of nearly three years during the dialogue with (then prime minister, now President) Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government. Erdoğan recently said that since then 7600 militants have been “neutralized” - a term used for not only those killed in clashes but wounded and arrested ones as well. This number also included the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In the meantime, more than 600 security forces have been killed in clashes and operations and according to government figures 11,000 homes have been destroyed in the towns and districts where the PKK has attempted an armed uprising with the aim of imposing self-rule in Turkey’s east and southeast, near the borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The circumstances do now seem so right nowadays for the resumption of dialogue, which had been carried out with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, via Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) played the role of messenger between Imralı prison, where Öcalan is held, and the Kandil Mountains in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) region in northern Iraq, where the PKK’s headquarters are. That was the second dialogue initiative under Erdoğan’s AK Parti rule. The first one was from 2008-2010 and the second was from 2012-2015. But before the start of each dialogue process there were again escalated acts of terror by the PKK and massive security operations against them; bloodshed was not an obstacle before the start of dialogue then.

There are of course additional difficulties now. İsmail Beşikçi, a Turkish-origin veteran of Kurdish nationalist politics who has spent many years in jail, said in an interview with the Turkish service of the BBC broadcasted on June 8 that the HDP slogan before the June 7, 2015, parliamentary elections addressed to Erdoğan saying the HDP would not let him the kind of president that he wanted, that is one with extensive executive powers, was a wrong one. Beşikçi speculated that a deal could have been cut for a Kurdish federation in Turkey with a stronger president. Beşikçi also said that the PKK tactic of resuming its armed campaign was also wrong and if the PKK had managed to pull itself back, leaving the stage to the HDP in the legal political area, their aims could have been reached smoothly. In the wake of those actions and anti-terror operations, the country went through another election on Nov. 1, 2015, in which the AK Party resumed its ability to form a single-party government and shifted to more nationalistic and security-oriented politics.

Beşikçi also said he believed another dialogue process was not impossible, despite the escalating trend in PKK actions and security operations.