Government to put together a new roadmap on Kurdish issue

22 October 2012 / AHMET DÖNMEZ / AYDIN ALBAYRAK, ANKARA – ZAMAN  – The government is preparing to launch a new initiative to deal with the Kurdish problem to hopefully pave the way for arms to be buried for good.

 The initiative will be shaped by lessons drawn from the failures in negotiations with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the past. The frame of the new package has taken shape, but work on the roadmap is still going on. Last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave the signal that the government intends to start a new initiative to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, saying, “There will be important developments regarding the terrorism issue.” But Erdoğan’s way in dealing with the terrorism issue seems to differ a little from that of President Abdullah Gül. Gül has recently gotten in touch with some deputies of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), but Erdoğan made it clear he wouldn’t see BDP representatives in Parliament as dialogue partners as long as they fail to distance themselves from terrorism.

“We have nothing to talk about with those who hug terrorists,” Erdoğan said on Saturday, referring to a scene that took place in August when several BDP deputies met with a group of PKK terrorists on a main road in Şemdinli and embraced them after chatting with them for a while. The meeting was recorded on film and distributed widely, sparking public outrage at the BDP deputies. As per the new initiative the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has adopted in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, counterterrorism will go on resolutely. While the steps announced in the 2023 Vision Document of the AK Party will be put into practice, a new dialogue process is to be started to bury the arms for good. But the new process will not be like a new “Oslo negotiation,” which failed in 2010 between Turkey and the PKK.

The Kurdish initiative, launched by the AK Party in 2009, was a major move by the government to reach a peaceful solution, but that didn’t become successful, as representatives of the BDP and the PKK terrorists who surrendered to Turkish authorities at the Turkish-Iraqi border as part of the peace process tried to turn the event into a victory for the PKK, thereby greatly disturbing the Turkish public.

Although how exactly the process will take shape is not yet clear, the government knows, having taken lessons from the past, what should not be included in the new package. Therefore, actors and factors that had a part in the previous peace process will not be included in the new process, while for some other actors the government will reach a decision based on observation of the present attitude of those actors. To avoid the content of the negotiations being leaked, which was the case in the previous negotiations, the government may also opt for a more transparent negotiation process.

Although Erdoğan described BDP deputies as being “just cat’s paws,” having no say or authority with regard to the PKK, he hasn’t totally closed the doors to dialogue with them all the same. “Our door is not closed to those people [from the BDP] either, so long as they sincerely cut off their ties with terrorism,” the prime minister stated.

Erdoğan’s stance with regard to BDP deputies is shared by some Kurdish intellectuals as well. İbrahim Güçlü, a Kurdish politician and writer, said the government also needs to get in touch with Kurds who are not represented by the PKK and the BDP, with the BDP, he maintained, not having the ability to take a different stance on the Kurdish issue from Kandil in Iraq, the headquarters of the PKK terrorists. Hasip Kaplan, a BDP deputy, said he believed the Turkish state has once again started to talk with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK. Maintaining that they now know Erdoğan well, “Whenever he criticizes the BDP strongly, then we know some other channels are in play,” Kaplan commented in Diyarbakır on Sunday.