Kandil complies with withdrawal decision, has reservations, reports say


9 April 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – Top operatives of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, where PKK hideouts are located, have agreed to the withdrawal of PKK terrorist from Turkish soil, yet they say they have reservations, media reports indicated on Tuesday.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş and BDP İstanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder returned from Kandil to Turkey on Tuesday. They had traveled to the region in order to deliver a letter written by the imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to PKK operatives in Kandil. Öcalan gave the letter to a BDP delegation that visited him in prison on İmralı Island last week as part of the ongoing settlement process, which aims to bring a solution to Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish issue and the associated terrorism problems.

The government has been sponsoring talks with Öcalan for several months in order to ensure the withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey and the laying down of their weapons. Media reports said the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization which encompasses the PKK, to which Öcalan’s letter was handed, agreed to call for the withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey. The call was made by Öcalan in a historic message last month. However, there are claims that the PKK’s higher-ups have some concerns regarding the withdrawal process which they conveyed to Öcalan in a letter handed to BDP deputies.

Reports said some PKK members want an assurance that the north of Syria will stay under the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political offshoot of the PKK in Syria, in case that country is divided. Media organs affiliated with the PKK have also stated similar views. PKK operatives such as Murat Karayılan, Duran Kalkan and Cemil Bayık are allegedly very insistent on receiving assurances from Turkey concerning the Syria issue.

According to reports, Kandil is also concerned about the lack of any laws guiding the withdrawal of the PKK terrorists from Turkey. The BDP delegation was expected to submit Kandil’s letter to Öcalan to the Ministry of Justice on Tuesday. The letter allegedly says Kandil supports the efforts for peace but has concerns regarding democratization.

On his return from northern Iraq on Tuesday, Demirtaş said: “We received Kandil’s response. We are heading to Turkey today. We will be in Ankara tomorrow [on Wednesday]. I hope this [letter] will be beneficial for all of us, for all of Turkey. We hope it will contribute to the democratic, peaceful solution of the Kurdish problem. All our efforts are for this.” The BDP’s Önder said they will first go to Diyarbakır and then to Ankara. “We hope this [letter] will contribute towards a permanent and honorable peace based on equality,” he said. Öcalan’s PKK, regarded by the United States and the European Union as well as Turkey as a terrorist organization, launched its campaign in 1984, demanding an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey. But in recent years it has moderated its demands for political autonomy and broader cultural rights in an area where the Kurdish language has long been formally banned.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict with the PKK so far. Over the past years, Turkey has taken significant steps to expand the cultural and political rights of Kurds, who have suffered much from the Turkish state’s harsh policies against them in the past decades. Truces have been declared and secret talks held with the PKK, but positive expectations this time have been fuelled by the openness with which the process has been conducted.