Problems emerge in Turkey’s Kurdish bid
“Is the Kurdish bid frozen?” a reporter asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday, Nov. 6, during a press conference before he was to take off for Turkmenistan.
The reporter was referring to the words of Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP), a party focused on the Kurdish issue. Demirtaş had said a day before that the government’s initiative in the pursuit of a political solution to country’s chronic Kurdish problem “started on İmralı,” the island-prison where Abdullah Öcalan, the founding leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is kept, and thus “could come to an end there if it should.”
“If you caused the killing of 40 people on the streets, you have nothing to do with a [peaceful] solution” Erdoğan replied with a long face. “It has nothing to do with İmralı.” Erdoğan’s reference was to the bloody protests on Oct. 6-7 after the HDP’s call to supporters to take to the streets against Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s reluctance to take a more active position in giving military assistance to PKK-affiliated fighters in the Syrian town of Kobane (Ayn al-Arab) near the Turkish border, which is under the attack of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Erdoğan added that the government wanted to “keep the process going.” But the answer was in line with the Ankara speculations for the last few days about a government tendency to slow it down at least until the Parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for June 2015. Yet that is not in line with the spring breeze on air up until two months ago.
Actually, thing started to go sour when ISIL started to concentrate its attacks on Kobane, following the release of Turkish captives from the Mosul consulate building through the efforts of the Turkish intelligence service (MİT) on Sept. 20. The head of MİT, Hakan Fidan, was also conducting the dialogue with Öcalan.
On Oct. 1, the government made two moves in a row: They asked for Parliament’s permission to conduct military operations in Syria and Iraq and make the dialogue process – ongoing for two years – official by setting up commissions on different aspects of it.
The optimism did not last too long as the Kobane protests on Oct. 6-7 left more than 40 dead; Davutoğlu had to ask Öcalan via Fidan to send a message to the HDP for an end to the violence and he did so.
Following the telephone conversation between Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama on the night of Oct. 18, Turkey decided to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters belonging to Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq to use Turkish territory to go to Kobane with heavy arms in support of the resistance there. That was not quite what the PKK and its sister party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) were thinking, they’d rather preferred PKK fighters to join Kobane.
A delegation from the HDP visited Öcalan on İmralı on Oct. 21 under those circumstances, as the aftershocks of the Oct. 6-7 incidents started to hit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) ranks; after all Kurdish-origin AK Parti MPs had different thoughts about the PKK, which had started its armed campaign in 1982 and has cost some 40,000 lives so far. Sırri Süreyya Önder, an MP from the HDP, said on TV on Oct. 23 that there was an agreement between the government and Öcalan to set up a “secretariat” at İmralı for the coordination of his work. He also said if things run smoothly, peace “could come in 5-6 months,” which in practice, meant before the elections.
By the way, the political and military wings of the PKK in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq and the diplomatic and financial wing in Brussels have been releasing statements addressed to Öcalan and the HDP, without giving names, that the government could play with them until the elections and then give nothing.
Erdoğan convened his first National Security Board (MGK) meeting as President on Oct. 30, which happened to be the longest ever; more than 10 hours. The situation in Syria, Iraq, ISIL and the PKK have been discussed in details in connection with each other as the Iraqi Kurdish fighters have started to get into Kobane.
Davutoğlu convened the AK Parti MPs and headquarter officials in the Western city of Afyon on Nov. 1-2 for consultations. There are reports that the Kurdish bid had caused a row within AK Parti deputies, where some of them claimed the government was under the influence of the PKK, which caused reaction in the party grassroots.
On Oct. 4, Chief of General Staff General Necdet Özel hosted PM Davutoğlu in his headquarters for a 4-hour, confidential security briefing. Davutoğlu had a similar briefing from Fidan at the MİT headquarters on Nov. 5, and yesterday, unconfirmed reports were leaked about Fidan visiting Öcalan a few days ago at İmralı and telling him that the former draft, whatever it was, could no longer be valid due to political circumstances.
It is obvious that something is going on, but it may take some time to understand what those are.