Öcalan might soon tell PKK militants to leave

4 February 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – Jailed terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan might order PKK militants to pull out of Turkish territories over the next 10 days, Turkish media reported on Monday.

According to a news story that appeared in the Taraf daily, PKK leader Öcalan, who is currently jailed on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara, south of İstanbul, is expected to urge PKK militants based in the rural areas of southeast and east Turkey to withdraw beyond the country’s borders. The Turkish government has been carrying on negotiations with Öcalan since November of last year. Government officials have repeatedly said the primary purpose of the talks is to disarm the PKK. Although much skepticism has been directed at this possibility, the talks have continued so far without interruptions in spite of fears that the execution of three PKK women in Paris might harm the talks.

Meanwhile, there were various reports indicating that National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officials, who are currently talking to Öcalan on İmralı, will meet PKK chiefs from the Kandil Mountains, where the terrorist organization is based. This round of talks with PKK leaders will take place in the northern Iraqi autonomous region’s capital of Arbil, some agencies reported. MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan will be conducting the talks, according to the reports. Both sources that Taraf talked to spoke of the possibility of the new venue for talks being Arbil — as opposed to Oslo, where PKK members and MİT officials conducted secret talks in 2011. BBC Turkish also released a similar report. Sefin Dizayee, a spokesperson for the government of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, told BBC Turkey that they supported Turkey’s peace process to end many years of armed conflict in Turkey. He said the northern Iraqi government has been keeping up dialogue with Turkey regarding every issue.

“If we need to offer support or play a role to contribute to a solution of this problem, we will do our best to fulfill this role,” Dizayee was quoted as saying by BBC Turkey. He said the political leadership of the Kurdistan regional administration, the government, the presidency, parliament and all political parties of the region have a positive role to play in the process.

BBC Turkey also spoke to Hemin Hawrami, the head of foreign relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who said the KDP has no lines to draw when it comes to facilitating, encouraging and contributing to the peace process. “It is not important which of the sides [wants what]; we will stand wherever they want us to stand.” He also expressed his opinion that there is no other option in the Kurdish problem for Turkey than dialogue. Statements from Dizayee and Hawrami also indicate that Arbil is likely to play a role in the peace process. Cemal Coşkun, a representative of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to Iraqi Kurdistan, also expressed his belief that Arbil’s involvement would help the process.

However, there has been no official confirmation that talks with PKK leaders might take place in Arbil from Turkish or Iraqi Kurdish officials. Turkish media report that the core of the talks that might take place in Arbil will be to devise a roadmap for the PKK to finally lay down its arms, if indeed Öcalan issues a call to PKK militants inside Turkey to leave. In a related development, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was on an official visit to Prague over the weekend, said, speaking to reporters before departing for the Czech Republic, that if the PKK is to lay down its arms, Turkey will ensure the safety of disarmed militants, as opposed to what happened in similar attempts in the past.