In major int’l conference, Kurds hail Turkey’s settlement process

9 November 2013 /SİNEM CENGİZ, ANKARA – Representatives of Kurdish parties in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria hailed the settlement process on Saturday launched by the Turkish government to end the country’s decades-old conflict with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), calling for peace in the region in a first major international conference in Ankara.

Speaking at the conference titled “Kurds Discussing Peace, Democracy and Solution Models”, which was held by the Ankara-based International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR), on Saturday, Kemal Kaya, Deputy Secretary General of Turkish Parliament, stated that ten years ago it was impossible to discuss the Kurdish question not only in Turkey but also in the region; however, added that today, Kurdish question was open for discussion.

 “We consider the peace process in Turkey as a positive step. The way of solving the Kurdish question is through dialogue not through military means. History has proven that there is no benefit in making a war,” said Abo Bekir Ali, member of Yakgrtu, a Kurdish Islamic Party.

Agreeing with Ali, Hemin Hawrami, head of foreign relations of Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), noted that Kurdish question in Turkey should not be considered as an issue of security. “It is very important for Turkish government to redefine its perception towards Kurds. It should not be considered as a tool for political gains. There should be a collective responsibility to prevent the process from facing a deadlock,” said Hawrami. KDP representative also maintained that Kurds are currently playing an important role in reshaping the region. “Turkey will be stronger if it finds solution to its decades-long issue with Kurds. Kurds proved that they are not a threat against any country, particularly Turkey,” Hawrami told Today’s Zaman.

According to Hawrami, Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have been always a part of a solution rather than a part of the problem. “We are again ready to be the part of the solution in Turkey. Peace process should move forward rather than backward,” said Hawrami.

In Iraq, Kurds have been in charge of their affairs since the Gulf War in 1991. Kurds in Iraq enjoy close economic relations with Ankara that boosted the profile of the autonomous region. Such a relationship would have been unthinkable a few years ago, when Ankara enjoyed strong ties with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and was deep in a decades-long fight with with the PKK on its own soil.

“It is Turkey that has changed not the KRG. Ten years ago, people were arrested for speaking Kurdish language, but a Kurdish conference is taking place in Ankara today. This is an indication of a significant change in Turkey’s perception towards Kurdish issue,” Hawrami stressed.

PKK should avoid conflict in Syria, region

Meanwhile, Azad Jundiyani, the spokesperson of Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), noted that members from the PKK were expected to attend the conference; however, later they didn’t attend in order to avoid harming the settlement process.

“PKK should avoid provoking a conflict in the region,” warned Hawrami, referring to the conflict among Kurdish groups in northern Syria.

In Syria, in recent times, Kurds have gained ground in the country’s north as a result of fierce fighting with the al-Qaeda-linked radical groups. Kurdish militants are now controlling considerable swathes of territory in the north and northeastern parts of Syria, causing disputes among Kurds, particularly between the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian offshoot of the PKK, and other Kurdish parties. PYD leader Saleh Muslim recently paid visits to Turkey for talks with Turkish officials – a development interpreted as an ice-breaking move with the Syrian Kurdish group after a long period of hostility.

“We want to avoid a Kurd-Kurd conflict in Syria. Kurds should have their own agenda in Rojava (Northern Syria). We don’t want to copy and paste the KRG like-structure in Syria’s north. Kurds need a more brave policy regarding the Kurdish question in Syria,” Hawrami added. Saturday’s conference was considered as a preparation meeting for the long-awaited major Kurdish conference to discuss the future of the region’s Kurds to be held in Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi government. The conference in Arbil, which has been postponed three times for various reasons, is expected to bring together major Kurdish political groups in the Middle East. The Iraqi Kurdish media had attributed the postponement of the Arbil conference to deep differences between Kurdish groups over the number of delegates the different Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria should have at the conference and who should be appointed a president of the conference.

“We agree that there are some obstacles facing the conference. However, Kurdish National Conference will take place on Nov. 25,” Hawrami underlined.

Democratic package not enough, but still important

Regarding the democratic reform package recently announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Hawrami noted that the package failed to fulfill all the expectations of Kurds; however, he added that it was still wrong to consider it as “nothing”.

“We were expecting a detailed package. Nevertheless, democratic package means a change in Turkish state’s perception towards the Kurdish question. The package needs to be strengthened and supported,” Hawrami noted.Kurdish politicians were seeking reforms to allow full Kurdish-language education, soften anti-terrorism laws, lower the electoral threshold to enter Parliament from 10 percent and strengthen local government. Turkish prime minister unveiled a long-anticipated package of reforms late September designed to strengthen democracy and keep on track the fragile settlement process to end the conflict between the PKK and the state. Although most reforms are directed to improve rights and freedoms of Kurds, pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the PKK rejected the package as “elections package.” –