Government authorized the İmralı meeting: Justice Minister

ANKARA – Hurriyet – 3.1.2012 – Independent deputy and co-chair of Democratic Society Congress Türk and BDP MP Akat Ata reportedly visit the PKK’s jailed leader on İmrali. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said late on Thursday that the government authorized two pro-Kurdish lawmakers to meet with the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, on İmralı island yesterday.

“Our government was informed about the visit and we have authorized it. We consider this as a helpful step for the country. But this process won’t last long if it is abused.” he said. Ergin also said that meetings might continue in the oncoming days. 

Kurdish MPs ‘visit’ PKK chief on İmralı

Two pro-Kurdish lawmakers reportedly met with the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, on İmralı island yesterday.

Their visit is the first visit to İmralı by lawmakers since Öcalan was imprisoned in 1999.

Ayla Akat Ata, a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmaker and Ahmet Türk, an independent deputy and co-chair of umbrella group Democratic Society Congress (DTK), traveled to İmralı, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence, from İstanbul’s Ataköy marina at around 8 a.m. and returned to Istanbul at around 3 p.m., according a report by daily Radikal. Fırat news agency, known for its close ties with the PKK, also reported the deputies’ visit to İmralı island yesterday.

The visit came amid an announcement from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), who said his party cautiously backed talks between Turkey’s intelligence agency and jailed PKK leader Öcalan.

The main opposition leader has said his party is concerned but not biased against talks facilitated by Turkey’s intelligence agency and the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.

If talks result in both sides unconditionally laying down arms, the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) will have no problem with any deal, party’s leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was quoted as saying yesterday.

“We also want to see the [PKK] lay down its arms, but once we look at the facts, we see the government does not sincerely target the solution of the issue as much as it is interested in turning the talks into a matter of political advantage,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, according to daily Milliyet. “These studies should not be done for the upcoming elections but must be done in order to genuinely solve the Kurdish issue.”Government and ruling party officials have recently made it public that another set of talks have been launched with Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence in a prison on İmralı island. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Dec. 28, 2012, that his agents were meeting with Öcalan.

“I cannot hold such meetings myself as a politician, but the state has agents and they [hold talks],” Erdogan told state-run TRT television. “The meetings on [İmralı Island] are still underway because we must get a result. As long as we see a light [in the potential for a result], we continue to take steps. If there is no light, we will stop there.” Daily Radikal Editor-in-Chief Eyüp Can wrote in his column yesterday that National Intelligence Agency (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan, who was also a part of the failed “Oslo talks” before being appointed as MİT head, spent two days on İmralı late last month to negotiate with Öcalan.

“Fidan and Öcalan agreed on a strategy and according to the agreement, Öcalan is now waiting for a delegation to visit him to talk about the new stage,” Can wrote. “The names to be included in the list are not certain yet, but it will mostly include politicians from the [Peace and Democracy Party] BDP.”

BDP politicians and Öcalan’s lawyers have not been allowed to visit the PKK leader for the last 17 months. His brother, Mehmet Öcalan, visited Öcalan on Nov. 17 for the first time in months and conveyed a call from the PKK leader that led to more than 700 prisoners ending hunger strikes that were risking their health.

Öcalan will issue a call that will include ordering PKK militants to lay down arms after the delegation’s visit, according to Can. Meanwhile, Oktay Vural from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) heavily criticized the talks and slammed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for “trying to run the country by olding on to Öcalan’s rope, ignoring the will of the millions that voted for them.”

Vural organized a press meeting in Parliament yesterday where he said the most embarrassing events in all of Turkey’s history had happened during the AKP’s term in power. He also condemned all negotiations with the PKK leader.