US message to PKK: Follow in IRA, PLO’s footsteps

US message to PKK: Follow in IRA, PLO’s footsteps

It has been a month and three days since the İmralı Process was officially launched by the government. On Jan. 3, Ayla Akat Ata and Ahmet Türk visited İmralı island on the Marmara Sea where Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is serving a life sentence.

Amid expectations that the government will issue new permission for a second visit to the island, there is an increasingly visible reflection of the international approach to the process. The European Parliament will be involved in the Turkish initiative to resolve the Kurdish question with a debate in Strasbourg today in which prominent Kurdish and European politicians will participate.

The legislation of the use of one’s mother tongue in the courts and expectations that the fourth judicial package will remedy deficiencies in the Turkish legal system that produce so many undemocratic results paved the way for Europeans to speak louder on the Imralı process.

The Washington perspective, however, has yet to be explained to the Turkish public. That statement came from Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, yesterday during a meeting with the representatives of print media outlets.

“This is a Turkish one and we are outside. We are not directly involved. I am not sure how we can assist as neither side demands particular assistance from us. What we do is lend our moral support and have a consistent message,” he said, clarifying that they are not, one way or another, involved in the process.

The message issued to the PKK is that they will not succeed in whatever their cause might be through the use of arms. “That’s hopeless,” he said, adding that the real courage and leadership on behalf of the PKK will be if they can declare that they will pursue their causes through democratic means that take real skills, persistence and leadership.

The ambassador recalled the experiences of the Ireland Republican Army (IRA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the two most prominent organizations that were recognized as legitimate political bodies following years of violence. Reminiscent of the fact that both organizations harmed their causes with their armed struggle, Ricciardone said, “I am very much hopeful that the PKK has reached the conclusion that violence will not succeed. They, too, realize their cause is being ruined by the violence.”

He stressed that the U.S. will continue to stand by Turkey as long as the PKK remains an armed terrorist group. Apart from the government, he also appreciated the support lent by the main opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, to the peace process.

In one of his recent statements that Turkey rejected an offer for a joint operation against top senior PKK members in the way the U.S. troops did against Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Ricciardone said there were ongoing military-to-military talks to study how to use “operation-intelligence fusions.”

This study is aiming to bring about a more efficient use of the intelligence collected from multiple points of observation and to move them in front of the soldiers responsible of operations instantly.

“We are trying to adopt lessons from each other. So I hope to see increased capabilities against those in Kandil as a result of that.”