A conversation with the deputy prime minister

A conversation with the deputy prime minister

Verda Özer
A conversation with the deputy prime minister Last week we all got worried that developments in Kobane would put the peace process in Turkey in jeopardy. However, both the Kurdish political wing and the government made a sudden move and embraced the process even stronger than they had before and accelerated its progress.

Soon after the government shared the draft roadmap aimed at accelerating the peace process with the Kurdish political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) this week, I paid a visit to Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan, who is one of the key actors in the process. Akdoğan, who said last week that “Syrian Kurds are our natural allies,” made a number of critical statements on the peace process and Kobane.

Akdoğan started our conversation by saying that he finds the HDP’s recent calls for peace and calm very positive. “I wish they had taken this attitude from the beginning. We were always positive towards Kobane,” he said, emphasizing that the peace process is a “social demand” and stressing the state’s decisiveness toward a solution of the Kurdish question.

I reminded him that the new package of anti-protest security measures, submitted to Parliament last Tuesday, has created fears that the old traditional reflex of security state is back. Akdoğan replied by saying these measures will not drop below European Union standards and are only aimed at ensuring public security. He said public security is the basis of the peace process and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) axis is democracy and human rights.

Some officials recently stated that ISIL and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are equally dangerous. Have these statements not harmed the process? Akdoğan said the PKK has not stopped being a threat yet.

When I reminded him that the status of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has lately been under discussion in Turkey, he gave a surprising reply. “It would harm the process to talk about this issue now,” he said, while adding that the conditions of Öcalan’s imprisonment could be evaluated and some improvements could be made over the course of the process.

Akdoğan made a critical statement claiming that Turkey had convinced the U.S. to conduct airstrikes in order to save Kobane. After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said “airstrikes should continue without any break,” contacts between Ankara and Washington increased and Turkey made great efforts and played an important role in the expansion of the air operation in Kobane, he added.

Will Turkey form a humanitarian corridor as required by Kurds and many Western capitals? Akdoğan said the humanitarian aid Turkey has provided so far to Kobane has created a de-facto humanitarian corridor anyway and argued that Turkey is the only country in the region and in the international arena giving efforts for Kobane.

Has the government developed empathy with the Kurds with regard to Kobane? “We have always emphasized with the people of Kobane; otherwise we wouldn’t deliver aid,” Akdoğan responded. What about the Kurds in Turkey? He said the government understands and empathizes with all Kurdish citizens who do not resort to violence.

Meanwhile, the deputy prime minister also said Turkey facilitated the current cooperation between the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), going to great lengths to push the PYD closer to the FSA.

What about Massoud Barzani’s statement that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq has sent arms to Kobane? This must have been delivered through Turkey as it is the only path to Kobane. Akdoğan did not want to comment on this, but said they can speak about everything with Barzani. “Discussions on this are continuing,” he said.

Last but not least: What does Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s recent statement that “Turkey is the Kurds’ state” mean? According to Akdoğan, this refers to the people of Rojava (northern Syria), not the PYD. So why does Ankara not recognize the autonomy of the PYD? “Because it is a de-facto and illegitimate entity formed without the Syrian people’s approval,” he answered, underlining Ankara’s main request that the PYD puts more distance between itself and Bashar al-Assad and come to the same line as the FSA.

Kobani has exposed the weaknesses and deficiencies of Turkey’s peace process. One naturally remembers Leonard Cohen’s famous line: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

The light seems to be getting in this time. This is because the actors of the peace process are embracing the process very tightly and are facing the cracks. There is no reason to be hopeless.