US praises Turkey’s new terror strategy

US praises Turkey’s new terror strategy

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US praises Turkey’s new terror strategy

US Secretary of State, Clinton (L) meet s with Turkish PM Erdoğan during the Friends of the Syrian People summit last week. AFP photo

Ankara’s new anti-terror strategy, which emphasizes dialogue with legitimate, non-violent Kurdish political elements, has been positively received by Washington, which has described the move as “a step in the right direction.”

Turkey’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was discussed when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last week on the sidelines of the Friends of the Syrian People summit in Istanbul, according to information gathered by the Daily News from well-informed sources.

Clinton reaffirmed U.S. support for Turkey’s fight against the PKK and took note of the government’s new approach to dealing with the decades-old problem. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU.

Though it has not been officially announced, the reported strategy rules out any sort of dialogue with the PKK officials in northern Iraq and Europe, as well as with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmrali Island in the Marmara Sea. Instead, negotiations with the legitimate and elected representatives of the Kurdish political movement are at the center of the strategy, which is backed by Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

The U.S. has long encouraged intensified dialogue between the Turkish government and the Peace and Development Party (BDP), which is primarily focused on the Kurdish issue, to work toward a solution to the problem.

In a meeting last year, Clinton bluntly advised the BDP to denounce terrorism, like the Irish group Sinn Fein, and to pursue serious negotiations with the government.

But this change in Turkish strategy has nothing to do with Washington’s advice and is purely a reflection of what is occurring in Turkey, sources said.

Pressure on the PKK
Equally important is the fact that the new strategy opens the way for Barzani to contribute to the process by placing pressure on the PKK to lay down its weapons and instead engage in a political struggle to achieve their demands democratically.

The same sources said Barzani, who is currently in Washington for high-level talks, has been encouraged to play the greatest possible role in the issue, as well as in further developing a relationship with Ankara.

Turkey expects Barzani to issue an open call to the PKK to drop its weapons during a Kurdish conference to be held in June in Arbil.

However, Barzani’s regional role is much more dynamic in the eyes of Washington. Apart from his role as a stabilizer in already-shaky Iraq, Barzani’s contacts with Syrian Kurds further add to his regional importance. Barzani’s gathering of regional Kurds in a meeting last month was perceived as a positive move that could also push Syrian Kurds to join the Syrian opposition, which would further weaken the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The reunification of some Syrian Kurdish groups with the Syrian National Council is seen as a crucial development for the development of a unified and integrated opposition against Damascus.