Second İmralı visit might be on the way, Turkish deputy PM says

Second İmralı visit might be on the way, Turkish deputy PM says

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
Second İmralı visit might be on the way, Turkish deputy PM says

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç. AA photo

Some Turkish members of Parliament have made an official application to the Justice Ministry to visit İmralı Island as part of an ongoing “peace process” on the Kurdish issue, but neither the timing of the visit nor whether it will even be allowed have been clarified, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said.

“As far as I know a couple of deputies wanted to go again to the island. This issue is being evaluated by our Justice Ministry, a decision has not been made yet,” Arınç said today in the western province of Manisa.

The “İmralı Island” Arınç refers to houses Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who is serving a life sentence in a prison on the island.

A recent initiative called the “peace process” or “İmralı process” refers to talks involving Öcalan. In late December 2012, Erdoğan revealed that intelligence officials were holding talks with Öcalan to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil.

“It was expressed that the [PKK’s] laying down arms and moving out of Turkish soil might be possible as this process continues. Then Peace and Democracy Party co-chairs said they also needed to go to the island,” Arınç said, adding that only the Justice Ministry was authorized to make such a decision and that it was being evaluated.

On Jan. 3, Ahmet Türk – head of the Kurdish umbrella organization the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and an independent lawmaker – and the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Ayla Akat were allowed to visit Öcalan as part of the process.

Since then, a second parliamentarian visit is expected to be paid to Öcalan, with BDP executives saying that they have not yet received any negative or positive response from the Justice Ministry regarding their application.

Arınç also stressed that Turkish people were involved in the solution process to the Kurdish problem, not the Turkish government.

“If these things could have been solved by guns, killings and bombings, then they would have been solved in the early 1990s,” Arınç added.

The PKK, which took up arms in 1984, has fought against the Turkish Armed Forces for several decades. Öcalan, its leader, was captured by Turkish security forces in Kenya in 1999.