PKK retreat will last as long as necessary: Deputy PM

PKK retreat will last as long as necessary: Deputy PM

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
PKK retreat will last as long as necessary: Deputy PM

The government has already promised the militants that they will be able to retreat in safety in Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir atalay says. AA Photo

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay has left the door open for a possible legal amendment that would secure a safe retreat for militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Turkish soil.

“We are having internal discussions [concerning the process of the withdrawal of PKK militants], but we don’t yet have a decision for a legal amendment. That’s to say, if needed, if we arrive at such a conviction, then we may use such a method,” Atalay said in a televised interview on private Kanal 7 yesterday. “At the moment, we don’t have a decision for the adoption of a resolution or law by Parliament. If needed, this may be resorted to. We neither gave a promise nor made such a decision.”

Atalay refused to set a deadline for the withdrawal process of PKK militants saying that the “retreat may last as necessary.”

The government had already promised a safe retreat of PKK militants from Turkish soil and it will keep this promise, he also said. Atalay’s remarks came when he was reminded of remarks by the chief of the PKK’s armed wing, Murat Karayılan, in which he made clear that they would accept a parliamentary decision as an assurance for safe withdrawal.

“We experienced the withdrawal process of 1999. Those were bitter experiences. For this reason, a legal basis should be formed initially for the withdrawal process,” Karayılan told journalist Hasan Cemal in an interview published on T24 online news portal March 24, referring to military operations in 1999 that killed over 500 PKK militants as they were withdrawing from Turkey after a call from jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan following his capture.

The interview was held on March 23, the same day as Karayılan declared the PKK’s cease-fire following a call from Öcalan on March 21.

“Armed elements even from the Black Sea region, from [the northeastern provinces of] Erzurum and Dersim will retreat, that’s not easy. Decisions of both the government and Parliament are necessary. Such a decision would be a guarantee for the safe retreat of our forces without any loss of life,” Karayılan said.

The resolution of Turkey’s decades-old problem will not be possible with “illegal methods,” according to Karayılan.

Recalling that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said the government’s promise alone for safe retreat would be adequate, Karayılan said: “This is a deficient framework. Parliament could adopt legislation to form a commission for supervising the process and the withdrawal process of PKK forces over the [Turkish] borders.”

The retreat of PKK militants could extend till autumn, according to Karayılan, who said the withdrawal process would require persuading militants about the process. “The government is underestimating the [challenges of] the withdrawal process. This is not easy. [Militants] risked their lives and went to the mountains [to join the PKK]. Persuading them to withdraw is very important,” he said.

The PKK’s top executives totally agree with Öcalan on the issue of retreat but “mid-level command elements of the PKK,” who have concerns over the issue, should be persuaded before a withdrawal can take place, he said.

“Especially mid-level command elements have some concerns; we have to persuade them. Yesterday I talked with 250 [mid-level] people. They say, ‘We came here to wage war, and we’ve been here for 10 years. We’ve come to the point of accomplishing a result, then you ask us to stop.’ At this point, leader Apo [Öcalan] should get involved in the persuasion process,” Karayılan said, noting that direct contact between Öcalan and the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, where the PKK’s headquarters is based, should be established.

Karayılan also criticized Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who recently said 99 percent of the armed campaign of the PKK is over and resolution of the remaining 1 percent is up to the government.

“This is a shallow approach by the BDP. This shows that they cannot comprehend the retreat process in depth. Complete finalization of the armed campaign is not such a simple issue.”

Turkey about to put an end to terror trouble: PM

Erdoğan, meanwhile, said Turkey was very close to putting an end to its terror trouble.

“I hope we will make peace prevail in our country. We are about to put an end to the terror trouble; we are endeavoring for it. We are maintaining this struggle hand in hand with politics and security forces,” Erdoğan said March 24 in Eskişehir.