PM categorically denies possible amnesty for PKK terrorists

3 March 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has shut down rumors of a possible general amnesty for terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as part of government-sponsored efforts to end the decades-long terror problem in the country. “A general amnesty will not happen by any means. I have stated this several times before.

I do not consider myself eligible to pardon a man who killed innocent people,” said the prime minister on Sunday as he attended a breakfast organized by representatives of some civil society groups in Balıkesir.

Erdoğan’s remarks came as a clear response to rumors that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government had secret plans for a pardon for the terrorist PKK. However, the prime minister categorically denied the rumors. “If a man committed a crime against the state, the state may pardon him. But if a man killed a man, then the state does not have the authority to pardon the killer,” he stated.

According to the prime minister, his government is decisive about putting an end to the terror problem, despite all attempts to force the government to give up its efforts for peace. “We have been faced with obstacles whenever we took a step towards the solution [of terror] in the past 10 years. We have been faced with walls whenever we moved a step forward … None of them has discouraged us. We have always said we will solve the terror problem if God permits us,” he stated, adding: “A country where mothers cry cannot prosper. We will stop the crying of mothers and open a new and brilliant page for 2023 [the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey].”

Erdoğan, in addition, lashed out at the opposition parties for not lending enough support to the government’s efforts for the restoration of peace. He also said the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, is not allowed to meet his lawyers because the lawyers misinform the people with “lies.” However, the prime minister said, the state allows his family to visit Öcalan. Turkish state authorities have been holding peace talks with Öcalan since last October. Öcalan has significant influence among PKK members and supporters and the state believes that talks with the terrorist head will achieve their goals of a terrorist withdrawal from Turkey and, in the long run, disarmament.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, says it has half of its 7,000 terrorists in Turkey and half in northern Iraq, where it maintains its primary camps in remote, near-impassable mountains. The Turkish government estimates the number of terrorists to be lower. On Saturday, the prime minister spoke about leaking of the minutes of a recent meeting between Kurdish lawmakers and the jailed PKK leader to the press. The leaking was interpreted as an apparent move to sabotage the positive atmosphere around the talks, which are commonly referred to as the “peace talks.”

Erdoğan called on the nation not to pay heed to “dark operations” and “ill-intentioned” news reports during the ongoing solution process aimed at ending terrorism. “I have a request from you. Please do not give credit to dark operations through media, traps and ill-intentioned news reports during this process,” Erdoğan said, referring to a news report that appeared in the Milliyet daily last week covering logs from a meeting that took place between Öcalan and three Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies when the BDP delegation visited him at İmralı Prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara on Feb. 23.

Erdoğan slammed the daily for publishing the logs. “You should not have published such a story if you want to contribute to this solution process,” he said while addressing his supporters in the western province of Balıkesir.

The prime minister said the bloodshed in the country should stop and his government is ready to do whatever is necessary to achieve this. “The process [peace talks] will carry on,” he stated.

The prime minister also said he is trying not to comment on the process and also advising his party members to do so and “be patient.” “However, there are some who are trying to sabotage this [peace] process. They are bringing you hatred, anger and gossip. I would like to repeat my request. Please know that all of these speculations are untrue unless we confirm them,” he added.

The meeting took place in the fifth month of peace talks between Öcalan and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). However, the logs contained aspects that are unlikely to be popular with the general public, raising suspicion that they were purposefully leaked in order to sway public opinion against the ongoing talks. In the published minutes, Öcalan claims that the PKK “served ruling power to the government on a silver plate,” implying that the AK Party owes being in power for 10 years to Öcalan. He also says the PKK could support Erdoğan’s possible bid for presidency if the country switches to a presidential system. “We would support Tayyip Bey’s presidency. But the presidential system [he would introduce] would need to be like that of the US,” Öcalan says. According to the minutes, Öcalan wants the peace process to go on under his own control as he reveals his three-stage roadmap for the solution. “All of us will be free,” he says, if the peace process is successful. However, if the process fails, he threatens to wage a “war” with 50,000 people against the Turkish state.

It is still a matter of controversy how the logs were leaked, but the BDP denies being behind the leak, although most observers say they are the likely culprit.

BDP deputy Altan Tan, who was in the delegation that visited Öcalan, said claims that it was they who leaked the documents are baseless. “That’s a lie and everyone should know it this way,” he told reporters on Saturday. “We are aware that the process is pretty hard [to continue]. We need to be courageous. The process is on the right track, and we will overcome all the difficulties if we continue to be patient. Peace will be the winner this time,” he added.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay also spoke about the leaked minutes on Saturday and said the minutes were not parts of any written document.

“We do not know who leaked the minutes to the press. The BDP says it is not their work. The minutes are not parts of a written document. They are said to be parts of a conversation between the delegation and Öcalan. Some say the minutes are parts of a deal [between the government and the PKK]. This is absolutely wrong. We do not lie,” Atalay stated. He also said everyone, including politicians, the media and citizens, should be sensitive to rumors about the talks between the state and the PKK because the process is so “vulnerable to sabotage.”

Atalay also said the prime minister will deliver a speech in eastern Kars province on Monday about the peace talks.

Bülent Arınç, another deputy prime minister, said he was not surprised by the leaking of minutes of a meeting between BDP deputies and Öcalan. “That was something we previously expected. None of us [AK Party members] were surprised. We do not think of giving up the talks just because such a thing happened,” he said. According to Arınç, the leaking incident did not surprise him because some circles took action for sabotage whenever the AK Party took steps to solve the terrorism problem. Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also spoke about the leaked minutes and said the newspaper should not be criticized for publishing the minutes. Instead, he said, the prime minister should tell the public about details of meetings held by state authorities with Öcalan.