Turkish gov’t makes last touch on Kurdish peace bid

Turkish gov’t makes last touch on Kurdish peace bid

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish gov’t makes last touch on Kurdish peace bid

'We are living in a Turkey where everyone’s nerves are strained. I hope we will come to the days of normalization,' Deputy PM Bülent Arınç (C) has said. AA photo

The government intends to finalize works on a democratization package that would include some measures to meet the demands of Kurds as part of an ongoing resolution process in a bid to protect its peace bid from collapsing, according to senior officials.

Some activities of the Kurdish militants in Southeast Anatolia are part of a psychological war and are aimed at showing that they are still powerful and can hit back if the process fails, according to the government.

“We have concluded our initial work. We’ll work again on Thursday, probably after the iftar at an open-ended meeting, and we will put in the last word. Then it will be submitted for our prime minister’s discretion. Some legal amendments will be brought to Parliament in October upon his approval, which I believe will be positively received,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told Ankara bureau chiefs late July 23.

Arınç dismissed links between the democratization package and the ongoing resolution process, noting that they rejected the notion of any give-and-take bargaining with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan.

Recalling that the government had never stopped reforms and that it had approved several democratization packages recently, Arınç said they had already realized nearly one-third of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 63-article list of promises outlined on the sidelines of the party’s congress last year. The package will address some articles on the list, he said, without giving details.

Although the package will amend some articles of the infamous anti-terror code to the advantage of arrested members of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the PKK’s alleged urban wing, it will not address the call to reduce the 10 percent election threshold.

“We, as a party, have come to the conclusion that this 10 percent threshold should be preserved,” Arınç said, while acknowledging the possibility of implementing some measures to increase justice in representation by bringing in a narrowed constituency system.

The amendments would also allow political parties to benefit from state allowance if they receive between 3 or 5 percent of votes in the elections, down from the current 7 percent.

When asked whether Parliament could be convened two weeks earlier than the scheduled date of Oct. 1, Arınç said the party had made no decision to this end but noted that it could be considered. “Sept. 15 would be a good date to reopen the Parliament but as I said, we have made no decision on this issue.”

PKK’s recruitment changes nature

Arınç underlined the need to speed up the process and called on the PKK to complete its withdrawal process as soon as possible so that achievements in due course could be protected and brought forward with more steps. In response to criticisms that the PKK and its affiliated groups were gaining more ground in the region, with pictures showing that they were establishing self-defense groups and recruiting more youngsters to join them, Arınç acknowledged these risks and categorized them as part of the psychological war conducted by the organization to show they were still powerful.

“But there are differences with the past. There are no attacks against our military outposts or terror acts. There were some provinces in which [security forces] could not get through. If our government is engaged in this process, I simply call this courage,” he said.

Arınç confessed that the government took this brave decision because it was in a desperate situation in dealing with this problem.

Denying claims by the governor of the southeastern province of Siirt that recruitment to the PKK had increased since the resolution process, Arınç said they had no information on the rise in the number of members. “We are not of this opinion. We do not think that those who join [the PKK] are not there with the aim of committing armed attacks or killing but for other aims,” he said. When asked about these other aims, Arınç said jokingly, “Concern for the future.”

'I am not a yes-man'

Recalling speculation that he and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had disagreed during the Gezi Park demonstrations as Arınç apologized to protesters when he replaced Erdoğan during the prime minister’s trip abroad, he said he had never been a "yes man," but at the same time he "never showed disrespect" to the decisions taken by the party or by the Cabinet.

“We say what we believe – correct or false. Sometimes decisions taken could fully be to the opposite of what we say. You have no luxury not to obey to these decisions. Unity, discipline and togetherness can only be exercised if the system functions this way,” he said.

“But, if you are talking about tension … We are living in a Turkey where everyone’s nerves are strained. I hope we will come to days of normalization,” he said.