What if the peace process fails?
A good majority of the Turkish people is in favor of the government’s initiative to talk with Abdullah Öcalan to end the terror problem and find a solution to the Kurdish question. The media, business circles, and civil society also support the process. Furthermore, the military and the judiciary are showing less and less resistance to the negotiation process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) although it has still not been fully clarified, according to a senior government official.
One of the landmark developments will be witnessed on Wednesday with the handover of eight captives to Turkish officials, if this is not postponed once again. Government officials have underlined that all measures are being taken not to allow the handover to turn into a PKK show, as occurred in 2009, again at the Habur border gate. The manner taken by the PKK today will also be evaluated to measure the sincerity of its headquarters in the Kandil Mountains.
Even if today’s handover takes place without causing much of a problem, the process is still very sensitive. Echoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s words, many government officials warn of possible risks and sabotages that could still take place.
Because the process is still very fragile, government officials are not hiding their concern that all that has been built so far could collapse after a sudden sabotage or an unexpected development. The question is: What would happen then?
Given current regional instability, in particular with the Syrian turmoil and the growing tension in Iraq, the breaking down of this process would further increase Turkey’s vulnerability to elements both inside and outside its borders. The PKK would likely launch a very violent campaign and would turn the country into a battle zone. “If the process collapses then we will be obliged to accept seeing the transformation of the PKK into a regional force,” a veteran politician who is still active in politics recently told me. “That’s why we don’t have the luxury of letting it fail. We should be focused on how to make it a success.”
This is not only to stop the terror problem and prevent the country’s youngsters from dying in armed conflict, but it is also for the successful accomplishment of the new Constitution process, which is just as important as the peace process.
Another reason is the fact that Turkey is set to witness three consecutive elections and a potential referendum in the coming year; potentially further fueling the domestic political tension. The continuation of the terror problem would blur the political landscape and would further polarize politics.
Obviously, Prime Minister Erdoğan would like to walk towards his own targets in a more tranquil landscape, spurred by the comfort of leaving terror behind. That, perhaps, makes the government more dependent and obliged to find a solution compared to the PKK.