PKK armed wing chief says cease-fire fragile if not mutual / HASAN DEMAL SPEAKS WITH MURAT KARAYILAN

25 March 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – One of the chief commanders of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the head of its larger network, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), has said the terrorist group is hopeful about the peace process, but notes that it is a very delicate process that might be undermined by an attack by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

PKK commander and KCK executive council head Murat Karayılan was interviewed on Saturday by Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal, who was recently fired from the Milliyet daily after the prime minister publicly expressed frustration with Cemal’s directness in covering news about the ongoing peace process between the PKK and Turkey.

Cemal interviewed Karayılan in a village in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK is headquartered.

The talks come following a historic call by the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, on the terrorist group to lay down its arms and leave Turkish territories. Turkish officials have been carrying out talks with Öcalan since October of last year over the disarmament of the group, which has been fighting in the country’s Southeast for three decades. Questions have been raised about Öcalan’s influence over the group, since he has been in prison since 1999, but responses to his call — read out loud on March 21 during a Nevruz celebration in Diyarbakır — showed that the group is indeed willing to heed Öcalan’s orders.

However, it might not be as easy as one would hope, Karayılan’s statements from Kandil showed. “As of March 23, the fingers are being taken off the trigger,” he said. “There will be no use of weapons from today on. The armed activities of the HPG [the name the PKK gives its armed militants] will be suspended. But in the face of attacks [from Turkish security forces] seeking to destroy us, the militants have the right to self-defense and to retaliate.” “The cease-fire will not live on too long if it is not mutual,” Karayılan said during an interview that lasted five-and-a-half hours. Karayılan said Öcalan’s letter — addressed to the PKK and read out publicly by two deputies of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) last week — wanted the deaths to end. “And we will be paying attention to that.”

Cemal said Karayılan repeated a number of times that they were aware of Ankara’s keenness on PKK militants leaving Turkish territory. This is not the first time Turkey and the PKK have carried out peace talks. Negotiations — although not public at the time — were also held in 2011 in Oslo, though those negotiations failed following a major PKK attack on Turkish soldiers in Diyarbakır’s Silvan district in July of that year. Cemal reminded his readers that he had also interviewed Karayılan at that time. KCK executive council members Ronahi Serhat and Zeki Şengali and the group’s foreign affairs chief, Ahmet Deniz, who also participated in the Oslo meeting, were present as well for the interview on Saturday.

As the interview proceeded, a videotape message announcing the PKK’s cease-fire decision from Karayılan was broadcast on a screen at a Nevruz celebration in Europe.Karayılan said he agreed that Turks and Kurds are at a historic point, as PKK leader Öcalan stated in his message, and that they were optimistic that the plan will be successful. However, he said the process was not without risks. “You know how [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan says that the government assumed a great risk. There are serious risks for us too in this process.”The PKK chief said he agreed it is time to disarm, and that violence is no longer working. “It is true, the time for weapons is over in our view as well,” he said. He noted that the armed units of the PKK are ready to leave Turkey, but said, “There are things the government and Parliament need to do for this to become a reality.”

He said, “If the Republic of Turkey uses a positive approach, we can make it possible to leave the guns out in the solution to problems in Turkey.” He said Turkey should acknowledge the Kurdish identity and build confidence for a complete withdrawal to take place. Karayılan also said there was no certain roadmap or timetable for the militants to withdraw from Turkey. He said Öcalan in his call to the PKK only outlined the new approach of the organization, which he said was not a tactical but a strategic statement. “So this is why he didn’t go into technical details such as a timetable.”