MEHMET ALI BIRAND’S COMMENTARY : PKK’s fear of being trapped

13.1.2013. Yesterday in this column, I explained what the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) suspicions and concerns were over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements. Let me refresh memories that in 1999 after jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan gave orders to his men to leave Turkey, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) attacked the withdrawing PKK members and killed nearly 500 of them.

The PKK was not expecting this and concluded that it was trapped. The impression that the state of the Republic of Turkey cannot be trusted increased. The prime minister has given an exceptionally significant assurance with this speech of his. I consider the prime minister’s last statements important. They have boosted hopes to a great extent that the İmralı process may continue.

It means that the steps to be taken regarding Öcalan and the PKK, the long, long way to go, the clearing of the mines planted years ago and the early negotiations may easily continue.

The more important of the two measures was the assurance that in the case of the withdrawal of the armed forces of the PKK, the TSK would not conduct any military operations. This guarantee, not in the aspect of solving the issue, but in the aspect of maintenance of the İmralı process, is extremely vital. As columnist Hasan Cemal constantly reiterates, it is an indication that the stance of “before anything else, fingers should be pulled away from triggers,” can finally enter the stage of becoming a reality. Once you have taken this step, the rest will be easier. It means the conditions of the PKK withdrawal may have matured.

I think to allow Öcalan to watch television and read daily papers is actually a very late step. Whatever, even though it was late, it was necessary. It will both meet the need to be informed as required in such a process as has been initiated and also one of the problems in Öcalan’s daily life would be solved.

This should be regarded as another step demonstrating the goodwill of Ankara. Especially, nowadays, if the mysterious executions in Paris are solved, then hopes will be further boosted.