PKK pullout starts with controversies

PKK pullout starts with controversies

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
PKK pullout starts with controversies

Prime Minister Erdoğan reiterates that the PKK militants should leave their arms behind and criticizes the announcement of the exact timeline of the pullout. DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Around 1,500 militants are set to begin retreating from Turkish territories into northern Iraq today as part of the ongoing resolution process carried out by the government and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with expectations that complete withdrawal will take three to four months.

Defined as the first phase of the resolution process, the debate around the withdrawal of the militants fueled an already tense political climate in the country as the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) vowed they would hold the government responsible for any military operations against militants during their withdrawal.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated that the militants should leave their arms behind and criticized the PKK chieftains for announcing the exact timeline of the retreat.

“Their announcement of a date etcetera, these kinds of things is wrong. I mean, if you will do something, then there is already no need to announce a date, this and that. The principles of this are leaving and laying down the arms. They would in any case know how to leave from wherever and how they had entered in the first place,” Erdoğan told reporters on May 7 following his address to his parliamentary group.

Erdoğan made this remark when he was reminded that Murat Karayılan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), announced that the militant withdrawal would begin on May 8. He also criticized the media’s publication of some maps outlining the directions of the PKK members’ retreat from Turkey into the northern Iraq. “How they will leave, when they will leave is up to them. Making definitions [on their retreat] is not part of our strategy,” he added.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler echoed his prime minister while advising the media not to depict May 8 as an extraordinary day as all security forces were taking care of their business as usual.

BDP warns of operations

A serious warning came from Gültan Kışanak, co-chairperson of the BDP, who recalled the military’s operations against the militants in 1999, during their massive withdrawal from Turkey after the PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured. “I am speaking very openly. Good things did not occur in 1999. This withdrawal process should be carried out in its whole skin,” she stressed.

Underlining that they took the government’s statements as assurances, she said, “We will hold the government responsible for any military operation.” The BDP’s leader also underscored that the next steps should concentrate on reforms to meet the demands of the Kurdish people in a bid to assure their electorate that the Kurdish question had not been forgotten after the withdrawal.

BDP’s other co-chairperson, Selahattin Demirtaş, estimated that the withdrawal process would take around three to four months considering the geographical size and thinking that they would use the same routes they had been using when entering into Turkey from northern Iraq. Demirtaş repeated Kışanak’s concerns but said he observed that the government took some additional administrative measures to prevent any potential operation against the militants.

MHP: Withdrawal illegal

In the meantime, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, protested that turning a blind eye to the departure of the armed PKK militants was illegal and that all steps taken during the peace process, including a new Constitution, were constitutional crimes.

“What kind of surrender is turning a blind eye to the departure of a terror organization’s members, waving goodbye to them?” asked Bahçeli, in his address to his parliamentary group on yesterday.