Secretariat for Öcalan to start working soon, HDP says

Secretariat for Öcalan to start working soon, HDP says

Secretariat for Öcalan to start working soon, HDP says

HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder speaks to the media. AA Photo

A secretariat will soon be provided for the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to help in advancing the stalled peace process, a leading deputy of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has announced.

Five or six months could be enough to complete the process, including the laying down of arms by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), HDP Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder said, while cautioning that the living conditions of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, a critical figure in the process, must be improved.

Speaking in an interview with CNNTürk news channel late on Oct. 22, Önder said a secretariat for Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara, will be formed while a new monitoring team will be delegated by the Undersecretariat of Public Order and Security.

“His conditions have not changed. We have held more than 20 meetings and we held all of them in the same place. He is staying in a place that is at most 15 square meters,” Önder said.

Along with the HDP’s deputy parliamentary group chairs, İdris Baluken and Pervin Buldan, Önder is a frequent visitor of Öcalan as part of the government-led peace process aimed at ending the three-decade long conflict between the PKK and Turkey’s security forces.

Having a secretariat has long been one of Öcalan’s main demands.

“It must change. A person is trying to build peace and he is doing this despite all of these limited conditions,” Önder said when asked whether there would be a change in Öcalan’s conditions.

Baluken and Buldan are among figures that will be part of the secretariat working on nine main themes such as security, education, women and truth and reconciliation, Önder said.

“And there will be Hatip Dicle,” Önder said, referring to prominent Kurdish politician, who was elected in the 2011 general elections before being stripped of his deputyship and released from prison in July following his lengthy detention in the main case against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the PKK.

“This secretariat will hold the meetings with the state and the politicians. The five-member secretariat will also be a part of the negotiation delegation,” Önder said, noting that the secretariat could work three or four days a week.

He suggested the secretariat could begin work as early as next week.

“It has not been discussed yet,” he said, while adding that a representative from the KCK should take part in the secretariat.

But Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç poured cold water on the chances for a secretariat.

“A secretariat for Öcalan is not the right issue here,” Arınç told A Haber on Oct. 23. “There is no change in Öcalan’s prison conditions. The Justice Ministry will do what is necessary. It is an issue that can be done within the conditions of the island [of İmralı] ... Öcalan says he is lonely, and I don't think it is an unfair request."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu echoed Önder’s optimism, making a bold claim and suggesting that the stalled peace process could reach its target within the next few months if the actors involved fulfill their parts.

“Now there is a roadmap that we have designated. If all of the parties, particularly the segments that are involved in the resolution process, do their part, then the desired point can be reached in the shortest time, within the next few months,” Davutoğlu said in an interview aired on Al-Jazeera late Oct. 22.

“Including disarmament, five-six months would be enough for us to reach an absolute peace. That’s to say, we would leave all these things behind when March arrives,” Önder told CNNTürk.

However, while Davutoğlu underlined the need for mutual steps and stressed that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) should not be expected to unilaterally advance the process, Önder stressed the urgency of improving Öcalan's living conditions.