MESOP DOUBLE MINDS : Önder says slowly – APO says quickly / Mediator Warns Ankara-PKK Peace Will Take Time

By RUDAW 17-8-2014 – ANKARA, Turkey – Just weeks after the Turkish parliament passed a bill to revive peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), one of the major mediators says that peace will not be achieved overnight, warning it will be a long process.“In a society that has been through war you cannot have peace overnight,” said Sirri Sureyya Onder, an MP for the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP).

“You have to change people’s minds about the process on a grassroots level,” he said. “People, especially the youth, have to trust you and be assured of the importance of the peace process,” he added. Onder told Rudaw in an interview shortly after Turkey’s presidential elections last week that the peace process is challenging because of the previous discriminatory policies of the Turkish state. “The government had made discrimination an official policy,” he said. “It had become a habit and now ending it isn’t easy. The system had poisoned everything and it wasn’t easy to convince people to change.” Onder is a regular visitor to Imrali Island where Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, has been imprisoned since 1999. “Ocalan is the architect of peace and I am only his messenger,” he said. “This process is about the future of our people, our youth.”

Onder said that he has visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where Kurdish leaders, particularly President Massoud Barzani, have lent their support to the talks between Ankara and PKK. However, said Onder, the driving force behind the peace process is Ocalan, “who is the only person that should be considered in this process.” “And the Turks have to see that Ocalan has shouldered this big responsibility,” he added.

Turkey and the PKK began a gradual peace process last year that started with a message from Ocalan during Newroz celebrations. But the talks have stalled since then.Onder who coordinates with other Kurdish MPs from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Erbil, Ankara and Europe, said that the road to peace is long, but that “Kurdish unity in this matter is most essential.”

The HDP parliamentarian said that the overall Turkish public is receptive to the idea of peace. “The language of war has lost its power in Turkish society,” he said. “A year ago wherever we went we were attacked during election campaigns, but we insisted on talking of peace. We kept going back to Turkish cities and said we want peace. Peace needs hard work.” “People now know that we are sincere about wanting peace, unity and brotherhood,” he said, adding that peace process comes against a backdrop of decades of armed conflict in Turkey. Onder said that since military operations on both sides between PKK and Turkish army have ended, the peace talks must continue. “We sometimes reach stalemates,” he explained. “But even if we start fighting again, we will still have to one day come back to the negotiating table. So why not continue with what we have got now.”