A welcome meeting on the Kurdish issue

A welcome meeting on the Kurdish issue

Turkey’s most urgent problem continues to be the Kurdish issue and related separatist terrorism. The general public is increasingly fed up with the vitriolic squabbling between political parties on various topics while such a serious matter continues to fester after dragging along with no settlement for over a quarter of a century.

This is why the call by the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), the main opposition in Parliament, for a high-level meeting with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in order to discuss the topic was generally welcomed in Turkey – except, of course, by ultranationalists. 

That meeting took place on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu got together to discuss a “road map,” worked out by the latter, in order to try and find a solution to the Kurdish problem and separatist terrorism by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Public skepticism prevailed before the meeting, of course, since this was not the first attempt to solve this problem, previous ones having failed. What was welcomed, however, was the fact that the two leaders were getting together in a friendly manner, after weeks of mudslinging on this or that topic, in order to discuss an urgent issue.

Kılıçdaroğlu himself, in an interview just prior to meeting Erdoğan, wondered why political leaders could not gather around a table in Turkey to discuss crucial matters facing the country, preferring instead to hurl insults at each other. 

It is not clear, of course, whether the hour-long Erdoğan-Kılıçdaroğlu meeting will lead to anything in terms of a settlement to the Kurdish problem and the question of PKK violence. AKP and CHP spokesmen said later that the discussion had been a good one and indicated that the effort would be carried forward. 

The CHP did not provide any concrete recommendations pertaining to the essence of the problem, and only suggested a method by which the matter should be taken up in Parliament. According to this, a “peace and reconciliation commission” of sorts will be established with the participation of all four parties in Parliament. 

These parties will also recommend names for an advisory group of “wise men” outside Parliament that will provide fresh recommendations as to how the whole matter should be approached. 

This, however, is where the problem starts because the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) rejects the fact that Turkey has a “Kurdish problem.” It argues that this appellation is tantamount to treasonous separatism, and insists that the only problem is that of PKK terrorism, which should be addressed by military means.

The MHP says it will therefore boycott the process the CHP is trying to initiate, and this may throw a spanner in the works because the commission being proposed requires the participation of all parties in Parliament.

It remains to be seen if the Erdoğan government and the CHP can muster up the will to find a way to circumvent the MHP, which got only 13 percent of the vote in the June 2011 general elections, should it insist on its position, as it is likely to do. 

The Kurdish question and the problem of PKK violence are serious matters and many argue that a genuine attempt by the majority in Parliament to address these should not be made hostage to the MHP’s ultranationalist whims. 

The other party that is crucial in all this is, of course, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which many see as a political extension of the PKK. BDP officials have welcomed the CHP initiative and are awaiting an invitation for the parliamentary commission being proposed.

How matters will unfold remains to be seen but past experience tells us not to hold our breaths in great anticipation. The CHP initiative is nevertheless a welcome one since it confirms once again that there is a growing understanding that Turkey has a Kurdish problem, and that the question of PKK violence cannot be totally divorced from this.