Nobody was expecting a meeting of the minds and hearts, but it seems that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Turkey went worse than expected. The most controversial topics were the disagreement on the inclusion of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the Geneva meeting regarding the future of Syria and exposed differences on the understanding of democratic freedoms. Alas, these are no minor issues but fundamental ones. It’s a pity, as it was a very important visit at such critical times!
Turkey insisted on defining the PYD as a terrorist organization and on refusing to recognize its role in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and in the future of Syria, whereas the rest of the world (with the exception of the Saudis) has agreed to include the PYD in the whole military and political process. It means that on one hand, Turkey is resisting the politics of consensus on Syria, and on the other, refusing to moderate its position concerning the Kurdish problem at home and abroad. In fact, although Turkey’s military campaign is recognized as legitimate by Turkey’s allies, Turkey is expected to find a moderate and democratic way to solve its Kurdish problem. Otherwise, everybody knows that this problem will eventually affect Turkey’s domestic stability and will also have a negative effect on regional efforts to bring peace to Iraq and Syria.
Kurds, too, have refused to acknowledge the reality that as long as they continue their attacks in Turkey, not only will Kurdish politics in Turkey lose legitimacy but it will also put Syrian Kurds in a difficult position. They seem to believe that their show of strength and determination will secure their role in the region and Turkey’s deteriorating relations with the U.S. will automatically benefit Kurdish politics at home and abroad.
Both sides fail to recognize that they will both lose legitimacy by intensifying and extending their fight. Both the Turkish government and the armed Kurdish movement have chosen to exhaust the efforts of their Western allies by overestimating their role and power. On one hand, the Turkish government is pressuring the U.S. and its Western allies because Turkey is a strategically important country and a considerable military power. On the other, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has become overconfident about its twin PYD’s role against ISIL. Neither of them seem to sense that they may end up losing their present value by not helping their allies.
The same is true for the issue of the degeneration of democracy in Turkey. Both sides have lost the vision that it is only democratization that will facilitate Kurdish peace more than anything else. The Turkish government returned to its old ways by regarding democratization as a weakness and military measures as a show of strength. At the same time, the Kurds seem to have (mis)calculated that the armed struggle will weaken the Turkish government and force it to turn to negotiations. The casualties of their war are, as ever, human lives and freedoms amid the suffering. The Turkish government is using the pretext of the “war on terror” against the PKK to crush all opposition, whereas the PKK is putting democrats calling for a peaceful solution in a very difficult position by insisting and intensifying armed attacks and de facto autonomy claims.
Finally, it is Turkey’s allies and democrats who are negatively affected by the results of the politics of miscalculations and delusion by both sides. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it is Turkey’s democrats and dissenters who will pay more of a price since they have no power. Moreover, I am afraid all those who live in Turkey will further suffer if Turkey’s relations with its allies deteriorate further. After all, Turkey will lose political, social and economic stability by alienating its allies, producing only isolation.