Peace talks can resume ‘with or without BDP’

Peace talks can resume ‘with or without BDP’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Peace talks can resume ‘with or without BDP’

The BDP is ready to back the peace process from outside, says its co-chair. DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The government must make its stance on the role they’re casting for the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) within the “İmralı process” clear, BDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş has said.

“If there is an approach such as ‘we can continue the İmralı process without the BDP,’ we are ready to support this process from outside. We are not saying that ‘everything ends if the BDP doesn’t go to İmralı,’” Demirtaş said in his address to his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Feb.12.

The “İmralı Process” or “peace process” refers to talks recently launched by officials involving the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil. As part of the process, BDP deputy Ayla Akat and Ahmet Türk, an independent lawmaker and head of Kurdish umbrella organization the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), were allowed to visit Öcalan on Jan. 3.

A second parliamentarian visit to İmralı by BDP lawmakers has since been awaited. Rumors and speculations have risen upon reasons as to why the visit did not occur within the past month as various media outlets reported different stories on the matter. It was previously argued that the government would not allow Türk to attend a second visit as his criticism of military operations against the PKK caused uneasiness in the government. Other reports claimed that the BDP’s insistent demand to include co-chairs were being rejected by the government because co-chair Gültan Kışanak was one of the deputies seen warmly embracing PKK militants last August in Hakkari.

Nonetheless, Demirtaş cautioned that his party would not allow themselves to be retained as a part of the process simply to be used as a scapegoat in case the process collapses.

“We don’t accept the government’s attempt to create the illusion that the process is deadlocked due to the BDP’s insistence for certain names. Our lawmakers did not visit İmralı as a result of our party’s insistence. Türk and Akat visited İmralı upon the request of the government. If they seek our party’s support, we are ready for it. But the government cannot manage the process with personal assignments by ignoring our party’s corporate identity,” Demirtaş said.

Use of police force against peaceful demonstrations weakens the credibility of the “İmralı process,” Demirtaş also said. He argued that 19-year-old Şahin Öner was killed in Diyarbakır on Feb.10 as an armed combat vehicle drove over him during a demonstration for the 14th anniversary of the capture of the PKK’s leader. “Is this your approach to peace? You are having talks with Öcalan, but you kill a youngster protesting the capture of Öcalan and you call it a ‘peace process.’ We cannot explain this to the people. The interior minister and prime minister should explain this incident to the people,” Demirtaş said.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, meanwhile, said the government’s determination for “the peace process” remains strong. “The process is being conducted carefully and sensitively. There’s no interruption regarding the recent process,” Atalay told reporters at Parliament.