The biggest risk, the weakest link
It is not the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) that is taking the biggest risk in the whole dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) project initiated by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan in search of a political solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem.
It is true that Erdoğan has taken a courageous step. No other Turkish politician could even think to start talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned-for-life leader of the PKK; it meant ruining your political career because of the exhausted cliché of, “You don’t talk to terrorists.” On the other hand, Erdoğan, having half of popular support with him, calculated his risks versus getting elected with the popular vote for the first time as the hero to bring desired inner peace to the country.
Erdoğan gave orders to Hakan Fidan, his head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), to go to the island-prison of İmralı and talk to Öcalan. He then gave permissions (which was not exactly by the laws) to the members of Parliament of the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which shares the same grassroots with the PKK, to have direct contact with Öcalan, the “serok,” or leader, in Kurdish.
But Erdoğan can always have his u-turn and tell everybody not only inside but also outside, from U.S. President Barack Obama to European Union leaders that he did his best, but those terrorists could only understand the language that they know best. He gave a clear message by letting Turkish jets pound PKK bases in the Kandil mountains of Iraq when a BDP delegation was there to talk to Murat Karayılan, the acting head of the PKK, and a few others. The bombardment stopped and the talk was possible, the message being, “I could have killed you all, then and there, but I choose not to.”
The PKK as an experienced fighting machine had taken its own precautions, too. Less than half of their Central Committee were there; if the Turkish state wanted to trap them, they could carry on their attacks from where they had paused.
The BDP is taking the biggest risk. If the talks will fail, Erdoğan (and prosecutors and judges) will have more legal evidence against the BDP to accuse them of being only an extension of a terrorist organization. So they are the weakest link too, as a party that has a lot to lose.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the other opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will try to erode his popularity by saying that he co-acted with the PKK, if the talks fail.
The most logical way for Erdoğan is to take the blessing of the CHP on the process, since one of the two streams within the CHP wants to see an immediate Kurdish solution, too. CHP leader Kemal Kılçdaroğlu visited President Abdullah Gül on March 7 and complained that Erdoğan has been handling everything single-handedly and asking for support without sharing any information with him.
Erdoğan cooperating with Kılıçdaroğlu on this process will sure bring Turkey closer to a Kurdish solution.