ÖCALAN’S CONCERN : Öcalan foreshadows release of PKK captives, expresses hope that they ‘join their families’

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – 24.2.2013 – The jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has called on the PKK to “treat their prisoners well” foreshadowing an eventual release, after the Feb. 23 visit of three Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies to the İmralı island prison. “I hope they [the captives] will rejoin their families,” he said, in a letter given to the visiting BDP delegation.

BDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Pervin Buldan, Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, and Diyarbakır deputy Altan Tan visited İmralı, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence, as part of a “peace process” that involves government officials holding talks with Öcalan in order to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms. It follows a similar visit by BDP deputy Ayla Akat Ata and independent deputy Ahmet Türk on Jan. 3.

“This meeting is a historic step. We are going through a historic process,” Öcalan wrote in the letter, which was read to reporters by Buldan. The letter also urges all parties to be extremely “prudent and mindful.”  “The state has captives in its hands. So does the PKK. The PKK has to treat its captives very well. I hope they will rejoin their families,” he said.  The PKK accelerated its abduction campaign after July 2011. Between July 2011 and August 2012 it kidnapped more than 145 people, compared to 154 recorded between 1990 and 2010, according to Human Rights Foundation (İHD) statistics. The targets were generally civil servants such as teachers, soldiers and bureaucrats. Many were released but dozens are still held in captivity.

Without responding to reporters’ questions, Buldan said the BDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak would make all the statements and share all the notes of the meeting “when the time is adequate.”

The visit lasted around eight hours in total.

Separately, BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said a new process would be starting following the visit. “We will share with you the discussions and the results of the talks after our friends come back. We are assuming that a new process will start,” he said.

Öcalan is expected to have shared his road map on the solution to the Kurdish issue with the BDP deputies. Demirtaş said Öcalan had already presented a road map to the government.

We will hear Öcalan’s messages from the BDP delegation: PM

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan briefly commented on the visit before departing for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he will be a guest of honor at the Government Communication Forum. “We cannot know what sort of suggestions Öcalan has made before hearing from the BDP delegation. We will only learn what sort of messages were sent after they come back,” Erdoğan said, noting that the BDP deputies had yet to return from the island before his scheduled departure. The prime minister again underlined that the government’s goal was to convince the PKK to lay down its arms, adding that the retreat of PKK militants from Turkish territory was crucial. “This way, we can take precautions so that the same misfortunes of the past don’t happen again. Our people have an expectation. We have to assume responsibility together,” he said.

Erdoğan also reacted to the remarks of BDP co-chair Demirtaş, who criticized the recent surveys conducted by the AKP, arguing that it was not possible to secure peace by looking at survey results. “Demirtaş is a novice in politics. I would advise him to make surveys. That way he can follow how people evaluate their policies and what problems they see,” he said.

Demirtaş said yesterday that it was not possible to conduct the peace process by focusing on survey results like the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had recently been doing.

“I advise the prime minister to give up this survey business until peace is established. Instead of taking a stand by overseeing survey results, he must stand on a basis of principles,” Demirtaş said in the BDP’s “Dialogue with Alevis” meeting in Istanbul. According to a survey conducted by the AKP, the majority of Turkish people, a total of 95 percent, support Turks and Kurds living together.

The survey was conducted in over 25 provinces with 5,500 participants.

Demirtaş asked what Turkey would do if 99 percent of society was against a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. “Peace is a universal principle. We are looking into people’s eyes. People want peace, the scream of peace is being heard,” Demirtaş said.  – Only 6 percent described the issue as the “Kurdish issue” while 39 percent described the ongoing troubles as a “terror issue.” Some 51 percent of respondents expressed support for the meetings with Öcalan while also supporting the use of the word “meetings” instead of “negotiations” on the matter, according to the survey.