PKK withdrawal from Turkish soil expected to begin this week

16 April 2013 /HABİB GÜLER, Zaman – Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Deputy Chairman İdris Baluken has said that the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will begin the withdrawal process from Turkey within several days.

Speaking at a news conference in Parliament on Monday, he said: “When we take a look at the ongoing process, we see that the PKK first started with a ceasefire and it will launch the withdrawal process within several days with concrete steps being taken for disarmament.”

Baluken also noted that they expect the handling of the solution of the Kurdish problem and democratization through legal and constitutional amendments following the withdrawal of the PKK.

On Sunday, the BDP announced that the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, will reveal the details of the terrorist group’s planned withdrawal from Turkey in the coming days. A BDP delegation that included deputies Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Pervin Buldan traveled to İmralı Island on Sunday to meet with Öcalan and hear his response to a letter sent to him by the commanders of the PKK based in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq. BDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş could not join the group as he was scheduled to be elsewhere. Following the meeting, Buldan and Önder held a press conference at the BDP’s İstanbul headquarters. Buldan said the meeting lasted for an hour and a half and Önder read out a message from Öcalan.

“The peace process we are currently going through is continuing at full speed. I am striving to make the ceasefire permanent and to ensure a withdrawal. I can say we are more hopeful now that we have come to this stage. In this context, I will reveal the details of the efforts we are making. In this regard, I offer my thanks to everyone who is contributing to the democratic solution process. I greet everyone with my belief in equal, democratic and just peace,” Öcalan’s statement said.

The PKK leader is expected to make the announcement for PKK withdrawal on Wednesday and the process is expected to begin on Thursday. Reportedly, Öcalan told BDP deputies during Sunday’s meeting that a consensus has been reached for the withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey at the end of ongoing talks with the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

“I am happy about the point that has been reached. From here [Imrali] I followed all the developments, debates and comments regarding the process on TV. I made an assessment of the letter that came from Kandil and as a result of talks I had with state officials we are clarifying the details of the withdrawal. I understand the concerns of the PKK as well. My plan will also eliminate their concerns,” Öcalan reportedly told the BDP deputies. Öcalan, imprisoned on the island of İmralı in the Marmara Sea off İstanbul, and MİT officials have been engaged in negotiations since October of last year. The negotiations have come to be called the “peace process” or the “settlement process.” In a historic letter in March that was read by BDP deputies at a Nevruz celebration, Öcalan ordered his organization’s militants to pull out from Turkey as part of a new “era of peace” in which no guns or violence will be used to pursue the Kurdish cause. Since then, the way in which the terrorists will leave the country has become a hot topic of discussion. The PKK leader also explained how the PKK terrorists will withdraw from Turkey. Today’s Zaman has learned that the PKK terrorists will give their weapons to the groups that leave the country last. The PKK militants will withdraw silently by staying away from the villages and military facilities in the country’s southeast.

It is estimated that there are 2,000 PKK terrorists in Turkey. The PKK says it will withdraw if Parliament passes a law to ensure the security of the PKK terrorists as they pull out of the country. The government, however, is reluctant to pass such a law. It is a matter of curiosity to whom Öcalan will give the order that will actively start the PKK withdrawal. He is expected to give this order either through a new BDP delegation that will visit him on the island or through MİT.

On Sunday, Önder said that they delivered the letter from Kandil to Öcalan and added that the PKK leader will send a response to Kandil about the withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey. The message will also be made public, he noted. When asked whether a sixth delegation will be formed to go to İmralı as Sunday’s was the fifth, Önder said: “There is no such thing as a sixth delegation, seventh delegation. There are meetings which take place when necessary and they will continue to take place when necessary.”

Wise people kick off work in Black Sea region

Black Sea group of the wise people, tasked with explaining the ongoing settlement process with the terrorist PKK to the public and promoting those negotiations, kicked off work from Düzce province on Monday where they met with representatives from civil society and opinion leaders at a hotel.

Academic Yusuf Şevki Hakyemez, who heads the group, said at the meeting that they formed a group to take the pulse of the people of the Black Sea during the settlement process, inform the region’s people about the process, exchange views with them, listen to their concerns and make a report of all these. He said they will make studies in the Black Sea for two months and plan to visit every province in the region during this period. “Terror problem costs Turkey a lot. This problem does not only lead to economic losses but it also leads to serious humanitarian, social and sociological problems. So the government launched a process to resolve this issue. This is a matter of courage. It is the government that launched this process but it needs to be supported by civil society,” he said. Hakyemez was joined by other members of the group such as lawyer Fatma Benli, journalist Yıldıray Oğur, writer Oral Çalışlar, Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB) President Şemsi Bayraktar and Turkish Tradesmen’s and Artisans’ Confederation Chairman Bendevi Palandöken.